Court Tennis and the portrait conversation piece were both very much the vogue in 18th century England, and painter Arthur Devis' rendering of the unknown player on the left is as much an example of the one fashion as his subject is of the other. The game, which came to England from France, where it was principally played by kings and members of the court, was a popular pastime with the young bloods of Devis' time. Though it is far less widely played today, court tennis has survived the intervening centuries almost unchanged, a rarity in the world of sports. Devis' young player would probably feel very much at home on any modern court, though he would find that the smaller ball has perhaps made it a slightly faster game. And Devis, too, forgotten until some 20 years ago although a successful portrait painter of his day, would doubtless be gratified to know that the owner of his picture, John Hay Whitney, is himself a practitioner of the game.
COURTESY OF JOHN HAY WHITNEY