Collection Online
The monopolist
oil on canvas
51.1 × 61.0 cm
inscribed in grey paint (on tablecloth) c.r.: RWB (monogram) uss. / 1840
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1877
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Exhibited Society of British Artists, London, 1840, no. 359; collection of Robert Napier (1796–1876), London, Glasgow and West Shandon Strathclyde, by 1857, until 1876; Estate of Robert Napier, until 1877; included in the first portion of the Robert Napier sale (Shandon Collection), Christie's, London, 11–20 April 1877 (sold 14 April), no. 548; from where purchased, on the advice of Sir Archibald Michie, for the NGV, 1877.

Exhibited Society of British Artists, London, 1840, no. 359; Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, Manchester, 1857, no. 389, owner R. Napier

Robert Buss’ painting offers a gentle comedy of manners that perhaps illustrates the injustice of the trade protection policies in Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century. Tariffs against imports kept prices of basic goods artificially high in England, to the profit of landowners and cost of the poor. Supporters of free trade were stifled by repressive measures, including a gag on the press. Buss, whose own finances were shaky at the time of painting this scene, portrays access to basic commodities such as warmth and even the daily news as a privilege of the rich. Reform in favour of free trade took place in 1846.