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One of James John Hill’s many successes at the Society of British Artists, May-Day was described by critics as ‘painted with care and clearness’ (The Athenaeum, 2 April 1853, Page 421) and ‘a picture of much brilliancy.’ (The Art-Journal, 1 June 1853, Page 135). Like his painting, The Gleaners, which was exhibited at the same venue two years earlier, in 1851, it is a ‘tondo’. This circular format allowed him to surmount a formal challenge and so display his ability to emulate artists of the Old Master tradition. The recent appearance at a Dublin auction of a large study for the work evidences his careful preparation of the composition, while appearances at other auctions of his small rectangular copies of the central figure group indicate his pride in its fulfilment and its popularity with others.