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William Hogarth - «Marriage à-la-mode»

Publié par Clifford Armion le 25/06/2013

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Reproduction commentée de l'oeuvre ((Marriage à-la-mode)) du graveur anglais William Hogarth.

This series of Prints has been pronounced by some good judges to be the most valuable portion of Hogarth's Works; and that he was himself of that opinion may fairly be presumed from their having an early place in the collection of his Works as originally published by himself. If considered in the aggregate, in conception, character, drawing, penciling, and colouring, it will not be easy, perhaps not possible, to find six Pictures painted by any Artist, in any age or country, possessing such variety of superlative merit.

Mr. Walpole, "having dispatched the herd of our Painters in oil," has reserved to a class by himself "that great and original Genius, Hogarth; considering him rather as a Writer of Comedy with a pencil, than as a Painter. If etching the manners and follies of an age living, as they rise, if general satire of vices and ridicules, familiarized by strokes of nature and heightened by wit, and the whole animated by proper and just expressions of the passions, be Comedy, Hogarth composed Comedies as much as Moliere. In his Marriage a la Mode there is even an intrigue carried on throughout the piece. He is more true to character than Congreve; each personage is distinct from the rest, acts in his sphere, and cannot be confounded with any other of the Dramatis Personae. Moliere, inimitable as he has proved, brought a rude Theatre to perfection. Hogarth had no model to follow and improve upon. He created his art; and used colours instead of language. His place is between the Italians, whom we may consider as Epic Poets and Tragedians, and the Flemish Painters, who are as writers of Farce, and editors of burlesque Nature. They are the Tom Browns of the mob." The Six Prints were published in April 1745, and announced, as "invented, painted, and published, by W. Hogarth, and engraved by the best Masters," [by Scotin, Baron, and Ravenet]. Hence there have been few alterations in this set of Prints.

The original Pictures were purchased by the late John Lane, Esq. of Hillingdon, who, in a Letter to Mr. Nichols, thus described the transaction:

"In the year 1750, Mr. Hogarth advertized the sale of the originals by a kind of auction; not by personal bidding,  but by a written ticket, on which every bidder was upon paper to write the price he would give, with his name signed to it. These biddings were to be received by Mr. Hogarth for the space of one month; and the highest bidder at twelve o'clock on the last day of the month was to be the purchaser. None but those who had in writing made their biddings were to be admitted on the day that was to determine the sale. This nouvelle method of sale probably disobliged the Town; and there seemed to be at that time a combination against poor Hogarth, who, perhaps from the extraordinary and frequent approbation of his works, might have imbibed some degree of vanity, which the Town in general, friends and foes, seemed determined to mortify. If this was really the case (and to me it is apparent), they fully effected their intention; for on the memorable sixth day of June 1750, the day appointed to determine the fate of this capital Work of this universally allowed great Master in his particular line of Painting, at about eleven o'clock, Mr. Lane, the fortunate purchaser, arrived at the Golden Head; when, to his great surprize, expecting (what he had been a witness to in 1745, when Hogarth disposed of many of his Pictures), to have found his Painting-room full of noble and great Personages, he only found the Painter and his ingenious friend Dr. Parsons, Secretary to the Royal Society. Those gentlemen sat in the Painting-room, talking together, expecting a number of spectators at least, if not of bidders. Mr. Hogarth then produced the highest bidding, in writing, from a gentleman well known, of £.120. Nobody coming in, about ten minutes before twelve by the decisive clock in the room, Mr. Lane told Mr. Hogarth, 'he would make the pounds guineas' The clock struck twelve; and Hogarth wished Mr. Lane joy of his purchase, hoping it was an agreeable one. Mr. Lane answered, 'Perfectly so.' Now followed a scene of disturbance from Hogarth's friend the Doctor; and, what more affected Mr. Lane, a great appearance of disappointment in poor Hogarth, and truly very reasonably so. The Doctor told Hogarth, 'he had hurt himself greatly, by fixing the determination of the sale at so early an hour; when,' he said, 'the people at that part of the town were hardly up.' Hogarth, in a tone that could not but be observed, said, 'Perhaps it may be so.' Mr. Lane, after some little time, said, 'he was of the Doctor's mind;' adding, 'that he was of opinion he was very ill paid for his labour; and that, if Hogarth thought it would be of any service to him, he would give him till three o'clock, to find a better purchaser.' Hogarth warmly accepted the offer, and expressed his acknowledgements for the generosity of it. It received great encomiums from the Doctor, who proposed to make it public; which was peremptorily forbid by Mr. Lane, but which was ever remembered and acknowledged by Hogarth to the time of his death.

"About one o'clock, two hours sooner than Mr. Lane had given him, Hogarth said, 'he would no longer trespass on his generous offer; and that, if he was pleased with his purchase, he was abundantly so with his purchaser.' He then desired Mr. Lane to promise him 'he would not dispose of the Pictures without acquainting him with his intention; and that he would never let any person, by way of cleaning, meddle with them, as he always desired to take care of them himself.' Both which Mr. Lane promised; who has often been tempted to part with them. A gentleman in public life once offered him three hundred guineas for them. Hogarth himself repeatedly asked him that question. Mr. Lane's answer always was, 'He intended to keep them as long as he lived.' The last time he ever saw Mr. Hogarth, he put the same question to him, adding, 'it was by desire of a great and good friend, who authorized him to say, that he should set his own price, and have it.' Mr. Lane's answer to this was as it had always been.

"These Paintings are certainly the most laboured and finished work of this great Master; and a very eminent Painter has told Mr. Lane, that he possessed the soul of Hogarth."

The memory of this occurrence ought always to attend the Work which afforded Mr. Lane an opportunity of displaying so much disinterested generosity.

After the death of Mr. Lane, these Six incomparable Pictures were put in at Mr. Christie's, March 10, 1792, at 300 guineas; and went on, at 50 guineas a bidding, till it came up to 800 guineas. Then the biddings were 20 and 10 guineas a time, till 900 guineas were bid, and knocked down at that price, but not sold; they having been bought in by order of John Fenton Cawthorne, Esq. M. P. for Lincoln, to whom they had been bequeathed by Mr. Lane.

The Pictures were again offered for sale, Feb. 10, 1797; and purchased by Mr. Angerstein for £.1381.

Previous to that sale, the following well-deserved panegyrick was given, by Mr. Christie, a Gentleman highly gifted as a Scholar, and a competent judge of the merits of our Artist.

"These celebrated Pictures, which are in the highest state of preservation, are undoubtedly the very finest efforts of the Master, and painted in the richest vein of invention, genius, and execution.

"Hogarth may be justly deemed the Teniers of the English School. These Masters equally entered into the scenes of domestic and familiar life; they equally represented them according to Nature and Truth. The latter may perhaps have excelled in sweetness of colouring, yet Hogarth surpassed him in originality of character, with the additional advantage of an historical talent, and a morality of design, which Teniers did not possess. We might even proceed still farther with the parallel. As humour was exposed in the Works of each Master; so, to give it every variety of force, subjects were introduced by each, from which the eyes of prudish delicacy might sometimes turn aside. But in this point of view, the beam evidently inclines in favour of the English Artist. This apparent objection eminently ennobled his Work. He pleaded the cause of Virtue—it was Vice that he painted in disgusting colours; and though the judicious spectator may occasionally discover grossness in the production of this great Artist, yet they were such as scenes from Nature produced, and such as the great Moralist always contrasted, by displaying Virtue at the same time in the loveliest attire, and giving her the most attractive expression.

"These Pictures may be considered as a fine Dramatic Poem, where originality of character, variety of incident, and the most enlivening wit, are continued through a course of scenes, and worked up into a regular fable, which concludes with a most impressive moral. To speak of their excellence were almost needless. They appeal to every judgment—they are to be understood by every capacity. The immortal Artist executed them with this intent. He proposed that every one should be a Connoisseur in his Works, because every one was to be improved by them. Suffice it to say, that these Pictures are the chefs d'oeuvres of the Master. They possess all that can be wished in composition, expression, finishing, and perspective. Even the only objectionable failing in many of the Works of Hogarth, is overcome in these; the Chiaro oscuro is given throughout with its full effect. And who, after viewing the Marriage à la Mode, will withhold from Hogarth the title of an excellent Colourist? They are, in fine, an unrivalled production, that must command universal admiration from the Lovers of the Arts; and will be ever deemed an honour to the English School of Painting, and to this Country.

"Mr. Alderman Boydell, with that munificent patronage with which he has ever fostered and encouraged the Arts, has paid an honourable tribute to the memory of the great Artist, by calling forth the talents of an Engraver of distinguished eminence, to prepare a new and magnificent set of impressions from these Pictures; thereby blending the merit of one of our best Artists of the present day, with the never-fading reputation of Hogarth, at a time when the Originals may be withdrawn for ever from the view of the publick, by the successful Competitor in this sale."

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE I.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 1

Marriage à-la-mode I - The Marriage Contract (HD download)

Plate I. introduces a noble Earl, with all the conscious dignity of high birth, displaying his genealogical tree; the root of which is "William Duke of Normandy," the Conqueror of England. Thinking all the valour of his great Progenitor, and all the merits of the collateral branches which dignify his pedigree, united in his own person, he considers an alliance with his son to be the summit of exaltation. The rich Citizen, who has been prevailed on to part with a large sum for the introduction of his daughter into a Noble Family, devotes all his attention to the marriage settlement. The whole soul of the supercilious Peer is absorbed in the contemplation of his illustrious Ancestors; while the worshipful Alderman minutely calculates what provision there will be for younger children.—The Magistrate's chain, however, does not, as Rouquet supposed, necessarily denote him to be a Sheriff; but rather an Alderman, who, having served the Office of Lord Mayor, is entitled to assume that badge of distinction, which the late worthy Alderman Boydell, it may be recollected, never forgot to wear.

The characters are admirably marked; the cautious countenance of the Alderman is finely contrasted with the assuming air of the imperious Lord. The stare of the Serjeant at so magnificent an edifice, and the subtle craft of the Usurer delivering up the mortgage deed, are infinitely fine. The Attorney, who is spreading the mortgage deed before the Father of the Bride, is a faithful portrait of Edward Swallow, Butler to Dr. Herring when Bishop of Bangor. He was afterwards the faithful Steward of that Prelate, both at York and Lambeth, and was recollected in his Grace's will. For the honesty and simplicity of his physiognomy this old and faithful servant was so remarkable, that Hogarth, wanting such a figure in Marriage a la Mode, accompanied the then Dean of Sarum, Dr. Thomas Greene, on a public day to Lambeth, on purpose to catch the likeness. As they were coming away, he whispered, "I have him!" And he may now be seen, to the life, preserved in the Attorney, in the position in which the Butler, whilst placing with a cautious formality a dish upon the table, might strike the Painter's eye.

Wholly engrossed by their favourite reflections, the two Lovers are not considered as worthy of a moment's consideration. The Viscount is too much enamoured of himself to be captivated by any other object. He turns away from his intended Bride, to contemplate his own dear face, gazing in the mirror with satisfaction and delight, and affectedly displaying his glittering ring and snuff-box. The Lady, perfectly inclined to retaliate, repays his indifference with sullenness and contempt. She is slighted by her intended husband, and therefore resolves to bestow her affections on some more attentive suitor.

The insidious Barrister opportunely appears at her right hand. He acquired the name of Counsellor Silvertongue, by his address in making the worse appear the better cause. With such insinuating talents, the virtue of the new Viscountess was in the most imminent danger. The two Pointers chained together against their inclination are strongly emblematical of the union which is about to take place.

The self-importance of the Noble Owner of the mansion is manifested upon almost every article of his furniture. The Coronet glitters, not only on the canopy, but also on the frame of the looking-glass, crutches, and, though not in the original Painting, the side of the recumbent Pointer.

The figures that appear before the unfinished edifice, seen through a window, were designed to represent the lazy vermin of his Lordship's Hall, who, having nothing to do, are sitting on the blocks of stone, or staring at the building; for thus Rouquet has described them, "Une troupe de lacquais oisifs, qui sont dans le cour de ce batiment, acheve de caracteriser le faste ruineux qui environne le Comte."

Among such little circumstances as might escape the notice of a careless spectator, is the Thief in the Candle, emblematic of the mortgage on his Lordship's estate.

On the ceiling of this magnificent saloon is a representation of Pharaoh and his Host, drowned in the Red Sea. The Artist's meaning was doubtless to ridicule the absurdities of those Amateurs who purchase such barbarous delineations.

The pompous Picture on the right hand of the window deserves attention. It appears to be designed as a ridicule on the unmeaning flutter of Rigaud's Portraits, some of which (particularly those of Louis XIV.) are painted in a style of extravagance equal at least to the present parody by Hogarth. This Ancestor of our Peer is invested with several Foreign Orders. At the top of one corner of the canvas are two Winds blowing across each other, while the Hero's drapery is flying in quite contrary directions. A Comet is likewise streaming over his head. In his hand he grasps the lightning of Jove, and reposes on a cannon going off, whose ball is absurdly rendered an object of sight. Self-complacency and pertness are the characteristic of his face.

The Pictures underneath are not on the most captivating subjects; David killing Goliah; Prometheus and the Vulture; the Murder of the Innocents, Guido; Judith and Holifernes, copied from a Print engraved by Dupuis; St. Sebastian shot full of arrows; Cain destroying Abel; and St. Laurence on the Gridiron.

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE II.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 2

Marriage à-la-mode II - The Tête à Tête (HD download)

Fatigued with the dissipations of the night, and having had his sword broken in a riot, his Lordship comes home at noon, where he beholds his Lady just arisen, and seated en dishabille at her first repast. His melancholy countenance and position proclaim that he has been unsuccessful at the gaming-table. The cap and ribband, hanging out of his pocket strongly indicate, that part of the night has been passed in the company of some favourite female; and we are induced to suppose the dog had originally belonged to the Lady who is the proprietor of the cap, from its exciting his attention so particularly. Her Ladyship's Portrait is said to have been taken from Francis Hayman, the Historical Painter, who was frequently Hogarth's model.

Her Ladyship, scarcely recovered from the fatigue of a rout, contemplates her face in a pocket mirror, Cards, instruments, and music-books, on the floor, clearly point out what were the amusements of the preceding night.

The yawning Servant, in the back ground, seems totally inattentive to his Lord and Lady, and regardless of a chair which is in danger from the blaze of an expiring candle.

The countenance and attitude of the old Steward are admirably expressive of his thorough conviction, that ruin will inevitably overtake this infatuated pair. He brings a great number of bills for payment, on one of which is a receipt, dated January 4, 1744; which ascertains the time when vulgar tradesmen are generally thought too impertinent and troublesome to men of fashion.

This stately Saloon is adorned with a melange of Pictures on wanton and devotional subjects. Among these are four Cartoons; and, next to that which is opposite the chandelier, a faint representation of another Picture is to be seen. The lines are probably intended to represent a Ship in a storm, as emblematical of the wreck of the Noble Family.

A marble head, with a mutilated nose, which decorates the centre of the chimney-piece, is perhaps meant for one of the Caesars; and the Painting in a ponderous frame above, serving as a kind of pediment, does honour to the classic taste of the proprietor; it is a Cupid playing on the bag-pipes. The ornaments round the clock are equally elegant and appropriate; encompassed with a kind of grove, having a cat on the summit, and a Chinese pagoda at the bottom.

The chandelier, candlesticks, chairs, and other furniture, are doubtless from the designs of Kent; who, Mr. Walpole says, "was not only consulted in furniture, as frames of pictures, glasses, tables, chairs, &c. but for plate, for a barge, for a cradle. So impetuous was fashion, that two great Ladies prevailed on him to make designs for their birth-day gowns. The one he dressed in a petticoat decorated with columns of the five orders; the other like a bronze, in copper-coloured satin, with, ornaments of gold."

In the very first impressions of this Plate (perhaps a few only were taken off) a lock of hair on the forehead of the Lady is wanting. It was added by our Artist, after Baron had finished the Plate, and the shadows on the carpet, &c. were strengthened. A passage in the Analysis accounts for the addition: "A lock of hair falling across the temples, and by that means breaking the regularity of the oval, has an effect too alluring to be strictly decent."

Mr. Lamb has well observed, that "the jaded morning countenance of the Debauché in this Plate lectures on the vanity of pleasure as audibly as any thing in Ecclesiastes."

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE III.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 3

Marriage à-la-mode III - Visit to the Quack Doctor (HD download)

In the two preceding Prints, our Hero and Heroine shew a fashionable indifference towards each other. To exemplify the probable consequence of licentious love, the Artist has placed the profligate Peer in the house of one of those needy Impostors who vend destructive poison with impunity. The Nobleman threatens to cane the Quack for having given pills which proved to be ineffectual in curing a girl he had debauched; and brings with him a woman, from whom he alleges he caught the infection; at which she, in a rage, is preparing to stab him with her clasp knife. This wretch is one of the lowest class, as is manifest by the letters of her name marked with gunpowder on her breast. These initials have been variously interpreted. B. (or E.) C. for the celebrated Betsey Careless (who fell a victim to debauchery), or F. C. for Fanny Cock, daughter of the eminent Auctioneer, with whom the Artist had some dispute.

Rouquet, says, "The Doctor and his apartments are objects thrown in by way of episode. Though heretofore only a Barber, he is now a Surgeon, a Naturalist, a Chemist, a Mechanic, a Physician, and an Apothecary; and, to heighten the ridicule, you see he is a Frenchman. The Painter, to finish this character, according to his own idea, makes him the inventor of machines extremely complicated for the most simple operations; as, one to reduce a dislocated limb, and another to draw the cork out of a bottle."

This circumstance of the Barber-surgeon seems to be implied by the broken comb, the pewter bason, and the horn so placed as to resemble a barber's pole, all which are exhibited either above or within the glass case in which the skeleton appears whispering a man who had been exsiccated by some mode of embalming at present unknown. About the time of the publication of this set of Prints, a number of bodies thus preserved were discovered in a vault in Whitechapel Church.

Our Quack is likewise a Virtuoso. An antient spur, a high-crowned hat, old shoes, &c. together with a model of the gallows, are among his rarities. On his table is a skull, rendered carious by the disease he is professing to cure. These two last objects are monitory as well as characteristic.

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE IV.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 4

Marriage à-la-mode IV - The Duchess' Morning Levee (HD download)

By the death of the old Earl, our Heroine is become a Countess, and, intoxicated with her elevation, rambles through every maze of dissipation. Her excesses are the more criminal, by the consequent neglect of her family; as we learn from the coral on the back of her chair that she is become a mother. Her levee is crowded with persons of rank, and attended by her Paramour.

Carestini, the Italian singer, is retained in mere compliance to the fashion of the day. The Swiss servant, dressing her Ladyship's hair, has all the grimace of his country.

Lost to every sense but that of hearing, the Lady in the front of the Picture (Mrs. Fox Lane, afterwards Lady Bingley) is enchanted by the mellifluous warblings of the Italian.

The fine-feeling creature, with a fan suspended from her wrist, is marked with a foolish enraptured face, it being the ton to admire what is not understood.

A little Black Boy, in the opposite corner, is examining a collection of grotesque china ornaments, bought at the sale of Timothy Babyhouse, Esq. He pays great attention to a figure of Acteon, and, with a significant leer, points to his horns. The fantastic group of hydras, gorgons, &c. are admirable specimens of the absurd and shapeless monsters which at that period disgraced our drawing-rooms.

The figure sitting in a recess by the bed, with a horsewhip in his hand, is supposed to have been intended for Mr. Fox Lane. Rouquet describes him as "a Country Gentleman, who, fatigued with a stag or fox-chase is fallen asleep;" and such has been the generally received opinion, till, on a close examination of the Painting, it was suggested that "this figure was intended to represent a Sheriff's Officer. The contour of the face is certainly not that of a Gentleman; and no one ever equalled Hogarth in giving the character intended to the human countenance. This most clearly pourtrays a man of low habits; the wig looks shabby and old, the handkerchief round his neck is of the same description; and the whip, in his hand, appears in the Original to have been broken, and tied up with string. Whilst every species of folly and extravagance is exhibited in the fore-ground, in the back we see this noble Lord's goods have been taken in execution. The company are too polite to notice the intrusion; and the Sheriff's Officer, wholly uninterested in the passing scene, is taking his nap."

Of the two next figures, the one with his hair in paper is said to be Monsieur Michel, the Prussian Ambassador, whom Rouquet styles "a disciple of Anacreon, a heretic in love." The other, playing on a German flute, is the celebrated Weideman, "one of those personages who pass their whole life in endeavouring to please, but without succeeding."

The cards of invitation, scattered on the floor, afford a competent idea of polite literature. Their contents are, "Count Basset desire to no how Lade Squander sleep last nite." "Lord Squander's company is desired at Lady Townly's drum, Munday next." "Lady Squander's company is desired at Miss Hairbrain's rout." "Lady Squander's company is desired at Lady Heathon's drum-major, Sunday next."

The Pictures in the room are properly suited to the bed-chamber of a profligate Pair.—Jupiter and Io, Lot with his Daughters, Ganymede and the Eagle, and the young Lawyer who debauches the Countess.

Some of her new-made purchases, exposed on the floor, bear witness to the warmth of her inclinations. These will soon be gratified at the fatal Masquerade, for which her Paramour is offering her a ticket.

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE V.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 5

Marriage à-la-mode V - The Death of the Earl (HD download)

The exasperated Peer, suspecting the fidelity of his wife, follows her in disguise to the Masquerade, and from thence traces her and her Paramour to a Bagnio; where, being informed they are retired to a bed-room, he bursts open the door, and draws his sword to attack the spoiler of his honour. Too violent to be cautious, his only object is revenge, and, making a furious thrust at the Lawyer, neglects his own guard, and receives from him a mortal stab. The horrid deed effected, the destroyer had not the fortitude to meet the consequences. Destitute of courage and honour, and dreading the avenging hand of offended justice, he meanly and precipitately retreats. The Countess, experiencing some pangs from the recollection of her former conduct, some touches of shame at her detection, and some horror at the fate of her husband, kneels at his feet, and implores forgiveness. Her tears, however, are not so much the result of repentance as regret. She is too deeply plunged in vice to feel that conscious ingenuous shame, which accompanies a good mind, torn by the recollection of having deviated from the paths of virtue.

On the alarm of the rencontre, a Constable and Watchman are ushered into the room by the Master of the house; his meagre figure is well contrasted by the portly consequential Magistrate of the night. We see the Watchman's lantern over their heads; his humility teaching him to be the last in the throng, well knowing that, though the front may be the post of honour, it is also the post of danger.

In this Plate, the back ground, which is laboured with uncommon delicacy (a circumstance that will be remarked by few except Artists) was the work of Mr. Ravenet's eldest daughter, who occasionally assisted him in his Plates, and was afterwards married to Picot, a pupil of Ravenet. When Ravenet's two Plates were finished, Hogarth wanted much to re-touch the faces; and many disputes happened between him and the Engraver on this subject. The first impressions, however, escaped without correction. Evident marks of Hogarth's hand may be discovered in the second; particularly in the countenance of the dying Nobleman.

Over the door is the Picture of St. Luke, the Patron of Painters, seemingly observing the scene now passing, in order to make a sketch of the transaction. On the hangings we see a representation of Solomon's wise Judgment. The Counsellor's mask on the floor "grins horribly" at the catastrophe. Dominos, stays, shoes, &c. scattered round the room, proclaim that the ill-fated Countess is not now attended by her Femme de Chambre. From a faggot, and a shadow of a pair of tongs, we may infer that there is a fire in the room, which judiciously fixes the time to be Winter, a season in which Masquerades were most frequent in the Metropolis; and we discover by the Bill that this apartment is in the Turk's-head Bagnio.

Marriage à-la-mode, PLATE VI.
William Hogarth - Marriage à-la-mode plate 6

Marriage à-la-mode VI - The Suicide of the Duchess (HD download)

In Plate VI. our Moral Dramatist has completed his Tragedy. The last sad scene is the house of the Father of our unfortunate Heroine, to which she had returned upon her husband's untimely death. Though guiltless in the eye of the Law, as not having been the immediate cause of his murder, a consciousness of her guilt inflicts a severer punishment than is known to human laws. This, added to the reproaches of her father, and the taunts of the world, renders life insupportable. Seeing no prospect of an alleviation of her misery, she takes the horrid resolution of terminating her calamities by poison; and, by bribing her father's servant to procure her a dose of laudanum, she finishes the dreadful deed. Near the phial, on the floor, lies Counsellor Silvertongue's last dying speech, plainly intimating that he also has received the punishment he merited. As they were partners in wickedness, they are companions in death.

The avaricious Alderman, seeing his daughter expiring, and knowing the value of her diamond ring, coolly draws the glittering ornament from her finger, fearing the Nurse might take a fancy to it. This little circumstance Mr. Walpole calls Wit. It may more properly be termed Character; it is an expression of the ruling passion. His furred gown hangs up near the clock; and his sleek appearance induces us to infer that he is not backward in his City feasts; the scanty meagre viands of his own table being but ill calculated to procure a jolly countenance. The hungry appearance of a Greyhound, taking advantage of the general confusion, and seizing ravenously on the brawn's head, convinces us that the dignified Magistrate provides but scantily for his domestics. The poor emaciated Child shews some degree of concern for its expiring Mother; and the clamourous howl of the old Nurse is admirably described. These are the only two of the party who exhibit any tokens of grief. The snug Apothecary indeed laments that his Patient should die before she has taken an hepatic, soporific, somniferous jalap. Pointing to the Dying Speech, he threatens the terrified Foot-boy with an ignominious death for having bought the laudanum. The effects of fright on the ignorant Rustick are finely delineated.

We behold the back of the retreating Physician, enraged that his Patient should quit the world without his fiat.

From the leathern buckets over the Doctor's head it is evident that the wealthy Merchant had preserved those tokens of his having long since (as has been before suggested) been honoured with the office of Sheriff.

Every ornament in the Parlour is highly appropriate to the man. The style of his Pictures, his clock, a cobweb over the window, repaired chair, nay, the very form of his hat, are characteristic. A silver cup upon the table, and jug on the floor, shew us his style of living.

As Rouquet observes, "Ce qui sert a garnir cet apartement ne contribue pas a l'orner. Tout y indique une économie basse." The scarcity of the real dinner; the Picture exhibiting plenty of provision; the starved dog; the departing Physician; the infected and rickety condition of the Child who is brought to take a last kiss of its dying Mother, are circumstances too striking to be overlooked.

The scantiness of the Alderman's table is well contrasted by the plenty exhibited in the Picture over the old Nurse's head, where iron pots, brass pans, cabbages, and lanterns, are indiscriminately huddled together, with no other meaning than to show how highly a Flemish Artist could finish. The attic delicacy of this patient and laborious school, is displayed in the adjoining Picture; and their humour, in that of a fellow wittily lighting his tobacco-pipe by the red nose of his companion, by which Hogarth evidently meant to burlesque the gross and ridiculous absurdities of the Dutch Painters. The pipe and bottle placed under the day-book and ledger, and the whole crowned by a broken punch-bowl, intimate that this venerable Gentleman united business with pleasure.

The view through an open window marks the situation of our plodding Merchant's house to be near London Bridge, and represents that absurd and ill-contrived structure in its original state, loaded with houses. A clock points the hour to be a little after eleven; which, at this highly-polished and refined period, would be deemed an early hour for a Citizen's breakfast; at that, it was his hour of dinner!

The Clandestine Marriage is professedly formed upon the model of these Prints.

Of the original Pictures, now in the possession of Mr. Angerstein, Mr. John Ireland says, "If considered in the various relations of invention, composition, drawing, colouring, character, and moral tendency, I do not think it will be easy to point out any series of six Pictures, painted by any Artist of either ancient or modern times, from which they will not bear away the palm."


Pour citer cette ressource :

"William Hogarth - «Marriage à-la-mode»", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), juin 2013. Consulté le 27/05/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/arts/peinture/william-hogarth-marriage-a-la-mode