On this Print is written, "The Bearer hereof is entitled (if he thinks proper) to be a bidder for Mr. Hogarth's Pictures, which are to be sold on the last day of this month, February, 1744-5."
In one corner of it Hogarth has represented an Auction Room, on the top of which is a weather-cock, in allusion, perhaps, to Cock the Auctioneer. Instead of the four initials for North, East, West, and South, we have P, U, F, S, which, with a little allowance for bad spelling, must pass for Puffs! At the door stands a Porter, who, from the length of his staff, may be High Constable of the old school, and Gentleman Usher to the modern Connoisseurs. As an attractive show-board, we have a highly-finished Flemish head, in one of those ponderous carved and gilt frames, that give the miniatures inserted in them the appearance of a glow-worm in a gravel-pit. A catalogue and a carpet (properly enough called "the flags of distress") are now the signs of a sale; but here, at the end of a long pole, we have an unfurled standard, emblazoned with that oracular talisman of an Auction-room, the fate-deciding hammer. Beneath, is a Picture of St. Andrew on the cross, with an immense number of fac-similes, each inscribed, Ditto. Apollo, who is flaying Marsyas, has no mark of a Deity, except the rays which beam from his head; he is placed under a projecting branch, and we may truly say, the tree shadows what it ought to support. The coolness of poor Marsyas is perfectly philosophical; he endures torture with the apathy of a Stoic. The third tier is made up by a herd of Jupiters and Europas, of which interesting subject, as well as the foregoing, there are Dittos ad infinitum. These invaluable tableaus being unquestionably painted by the great Italian Masters, is a proof of their unremitting industry. Their labours evade calculation! for, had they acquired the poly- graphic art of striking off Pictures with the facility that Printers roll off Copper-plates, and each of them attained the age of Methusaleh, they could not have painted all that are exhibited under their names. Nothing is therefore left us to suppose, but that some of these undoubted originals were painted by their disciples. Such are the collections of fac-similes. The other Pictures are drawn up in battle-array. We will begin with that of St. Francis, the corner of which is, in a most unpropitious way, driven through Hogarth's Morning. The third Painting of the Harlot's Progress suffers equal degradation from a weeping Madona, while the splendid Saloon of the repentant pair in Marriage a la Mode is broken by the Aldobrandini Marriage.
Thus far is rather in favour of the Antients; but the aerial combat has a different termination; for, by the riotous scene in the Rake's Progress, a hole is made in Titian's Feast of Olympus; and a Bacchanalian by Rubens shares the same fate from the Modern Midnight Conversation.
Considered as so much reduced, the figures are etched with great spirit, and have strong character. In ridicule of the preference given to old Pictures, he exercised not only his pencil, but his pen.