William Hogarth - «Paul Before Felix»
Plate I. This Plate, "designed and etched in the ridiculous manner of Rembrandt," was the Receipt for Pharaoh's Daughter, and for the serious Paul before Felix; and contains, in the character of a Serjeant tearing his Brief, a Portrait of Mr. Hume Campbell, who was not over-delicate in the language he used at the Bar to his adversaries and antagonists. It is, however, said by others to represent Dr. W. King, "a tall, lean, well-looking man;" of whom there is a striking likeness in Worlidge's "View of the Installation of Lord Westmoreland as Chancellor of Oxford in 1761."
The Apostle, conformably to the general practice of the Flemish School, is represented as a mean and vulgar character. In the true spirit of Dutch allegory, a figure fat enough for a Burgomaster, invested with wings, is seated on the floor behind him as a Guardian Angel. At this unpropitious moment the Guardian Angel is asleep; and a little Imp of darkness, ever active in mischief, is busily employed with a hand-saw, cutting through the leg of the Apostle's stool, which, if it fall, must inevitably bring the Orator to the ground, where he will probably be seized by the snarling dog, on whose collar is engraved Felix, and who seems to have an eye to the Saint, though his nose is evidently pointed at his appalled Master. Seated on a wicker chair, with the Roman Eagle over his head, and the Fasces at his left hand, Felix indeed trembles. On an adjoining seat is the all-accomplished Drusilla, with her lap-dog.
With a sacrificing-knife in his right hand, his left clenched, and a countenance irritated almost to madness, the High Priest appears ready to leap from the Bench, and put the Apostle to death, but is prevented by a more prudent Senator.
The Audience are worthy of the Judges. Male and female, young and old, are, in dress, deportment, and feature, perfectly Dutch. Of the same School is the Statue of Justice, with a bandage over one eye, and grasping, in the place of a flaming sword, a butcher's knife. She stands in state, laden with bags of gold, the reward of legal decisions.
At a table beneath the Bench are five curious characters. The first, maugre the thundering eloquence of St. Paul, is asleep; the next, mending a pen; two adjoining are highly offended with a noxious effluvia, while their bearded associate is grinning and pointing at the cause from which it emanates. Regardless of all other objects, an Hebrew counterpart of Shylock is expanding his hands in astonishment, at the unguarded vehemence of the Preacher. Not less exasperated is Tertullus, who, arrayed in the habit of an English Serjeant at Law, has nothing Roman but his nose. Boiling with rage, and irritated almost to madness, he tears his brief; which a Devil, who, to give him peculiar distinction, has three horns, is carefully picking up, and joining the remnants together. The vase and silver plates in a recess; the violent stream of light, which dazzles the eyes of a Priest who stands with his back to it; the boat, bark, and white sail, glittering in the wave; and a village and windmill in the distance, are all of Rembrant's School.
Of this Burlesque Print none were originally intended for sale; but our Artist gave them to such of his acquaintance as asked for them. The number of such applicants, however, daily increasing, he resolved to part with no copies of it at a less price than five shillings. All the early proofs were stained by himself, to give them that tint of age which is generally found on the works of Rembrandt.
Plate II. This Plate, which Hogarth engraved himself from the original Painting now in Lincoln's Inn Hall, was intended as a serious and sublime representation of the scene which he had burlesqued: but, to use the words of Mr. Walpole, "there is much less Dignity in this, than Wit in the preceding." Hogarth must, however, have been severely mortified, when he found that the ludicrous representation was more admired than his serious Print.
On a copy of this Plate, was the following memorandum in the hand-writing of Hogarth: "A Print off the Plate that was set aside as insufficient; engraved by W. H."
Plate III. This Plate was engraved, by Luke Sullivan, from the same design as the former; "but," says Mr. Walpole, "the wife of Felix was omitted, because St. Paul's hand was very improperly placed before her."
This Plate is somewhat superior to the former; but the light is ill distributed, and the characters too individual for the dignity of historical composition.
On the first appearance of this Print, Dr. Joseph Warton, in his "Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope," made some remarks; in which, trusting to memory, he confounded two of Hogarth's Plates, and, having seen a Dog snarling at a Cat in the fourth Print of "Industry and Idleness," transferred them to "Paul before Felix."
"Some nicer Virtuosi," says the Doctor, "have remarked that, in the serious pieces in which Hogarth has deviated from the natural bias of his genius, there are some strokes of the ridiculous discernible, which suit not with the dignity of his subject. In his Preaching of St. Paul, a Dog snarling at a Cat; and in his Pharaoh's Daughter, the figure of the Infant Moses, who expresses rather archness than timidity; are alleged as instances, that this Artist, unrivalled in his own walk, could not resist the impulse of his imagination towards drollery. His Picture, however, of "Richard" is pure and unmixed, without any ridiculous circumstance, and strongly impresses terror and amazement."
With these remarks Hogarth was violently offended. He caused the whole critique to be engraved on the Plate, without comment; introduced a Publication of Warton's into one of his most ludicrous Prints; and vowed an immortale odium. By the interference, however, of Dr. John Hoadly and Mr. Garrick, a reconciliation took place. The Doctor, in a subsequent Edition, by softening the observation, made the amende honorable; and Hogarth apologized, and erased the Critique from the Print.
Pour citer cette ressource :
"William Hogarth - «Paul Before Felix»", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2013. Consulté le 28/02/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/arts/peinture/william-hogarth-paul-before-felix