Boys playing at peg-top in the cloisters of Westminster School by Richard Morton Paye (1750-1821)
England, about 1800, Museum no. B.61-2005
Oil on canvas
Tops were consistently one of the most popular playthings in the UK, occasionally resurging in crazes. Part of their appeal was their small size and availability, since a basic version could be produced quite cheaply and easily by hand. One important requirement for playing with a top is a clean, dry flat surface, and the boys depicted by Paye have found an ideal site in the paved cloisters.
Richard Morton Paye specialised in painting children at play and single portraits. He regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, and was initially helped by his patron Dr John Wolcot. Unfortunately Paye fell out with Wolcot, and without patronage he sank into poverty, severe illness and neglect, and died in 1821.
You can find this painting in the Moving Toys Gallery at the Museum of Childhood.