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This article offers a fresh reading of Sir Joshua Reynolds's celebrated portrait of the Marlborough Family (1777–79), in which the painting is interpreted in relation to the themes of dynasty, connoisseurship, parental tenderness, childhood and intimacy, and as an ambitious assemblage of interacting pictorial elements. The article is designed to suggest new, historically informed ways of approaching and interpreting Reynolds's own work, and hopes to indicate the interpretive richness of the Georgian family portrait as a pictorial genre. It also makes a case for the benefits that continue to accrue from the practice and skill of looking in a concentrated, questioning and patient way at a single work of art.