What sits in Mrs Andrews' lap?

Detail of Mr and Mrs Andrews, c. 1750, oil on canvas -- in The National Gallery, London

Detail of Mr and Mrs Andrews, c. 1750, oil on canvas -- in The National Gallery, London

Why didn't Thomas Gainsborough finish this work in this precise spot -- it seems complete otherwise -- and what was the splodge on Mrs Andrews' lap intended to represent? Some have suggested 'a baby', but presumably as newlyweds or any rate young marrieds, they did not yet have a baby. Perhaps Gainsborough was leeringly suggesting that he knew a baby would soon 'complete the picture'. On the other hand, does the beige splodge really suggest a baby to you? It looks more like a legless dumpling, and the 'arm' is a puzzler, too. One does not hold a baby with arms arranged as they are in the picture. And what is that strange penis-like outline that bisects the blob? It's much more likely to be a dead pheasant -- one just shot by Mister -- and Mrs has got him by the tail while his wings spread from side to side and his beak points downwards. A highly unlikely scenario: 'Here, wife, I've just shot this bloody bird: dangle it over your silk dress, will you?' It's not only bizarrely unlife-like, it's an insult to the decency and refinement of the lady.

Finally, since the Andrews evidently didn't like Gainsborough's idea (and who would?), why didn't he paint what they wanted? Why did he leave this strange omission in the middle of an otherwise complete painting? Did he despise them that much? Or perhaps they hated him for making their faces seem charmless and calculating, and for featuring how 'bigly' the land was, by putting them at the edge of the scenery instead of in the middle. On the other hand, perhaps they thought -- look at the unconvincing hair, the lady's odd eyes, her doll-like unwomanly torso -- that Gainsborough was a naff painter.