'The Dinner', also known as 'A Roman Banquet' was commissioned from the artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema by the art dealer Ernest Gambart. The painting is one of a set of three, the other two being 'Greek Wine' (1872) and 'The Siesta' (1873). Originally the pictures were planned to be of a much larger size, but as no client was interested, they were executed in a smaller format.
Alma-Tadema frequently painted the theme of Romans dining, including four paintings using the same figure of the elderly man which date from 1872-1880, and a watercolour, 'The Batchelor' (1879). A later revised version of this painting, 'The First Course: The Dinner', was painted in 1880 (location unknown). A similar subject also appears in 'Between Hope and Fear' (1876), private collection.