|Published||Invented, Painted, & Engrav'd by Wm. Hogarth, & Publish'd June ye. 25 1735, According to Act of Parliament.|
|Dimensions||Image 315 x 385 mm, Plate 355 x 405 mm, Sheet 427 x 562 mm|
Plate 1 from Hogarth's most famous moral satire, A Rake's Progress, the successor to his highly lauded 'Harlot's Progress'. Aside from its celebrated subject matter, and its crystallisation of the Rake as an iconic stock caricature in English satire, the series also occupies an important part in the history of printmaking in the British Isles, coinciding with the the passing of 'Hogarth's Act.' Publication of the series was delayed by the artist in an attempt to curb the efforts of copyists, though before the passing of the law, a number of pirated editions had already appeared. The original oil paintings of the series are still extant, and are regarded as being amongst the most significant works in Sir John Soane's Museum.
Plate 1: Tom Rakewell, newly arrived in London after returning from Oxford, takes possession of his dead father's estate. The father, unlike his profligate son, was a notorious miser, the room bearing many indications of his penny-pinching ways. A gaunt and starving cat mewls pathetically, searching for food in a box filled with silver plate, while even a nearby Bible has not escaped Rakewell Senior's miserliness, its leather bindings cut to mend the sole of an old boot. In the background, a hunched serving woman prepares to stoke the rarely used fireplace with a bunch of sticks, while a carpenter engaged by Tom to fix up the cornices dislodges a hidden stash of coins. At centre, Tom is being fitted for a new suit of clothes, appealing to the distraught Sarah Young, his former paramour, and her furious mother. Sarah is pregnant, and carries a ring, suggesting Tom has recently backed out of a promise of marriage. Behind the central group, the grizzled family lawyer takes advantage of the distraction and helps himself to the old man's purse.
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) was born in London, the son of an unsuccessful schoolmaster and writer from Westmoreland. After apprenticeship to a goldsmith, he began to produce his own engraved designs in about 1710. He later took up oil painting, starting with small portrait groups called conversation pieces. He went on to create a series of paintings satirising contemporary customs, but based on earlier Italian prints, of which the first was The Harlot's Progress (1731), and perhaps the most famous The Rake's Progress. His engravings were so plagiarised that he lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1735, commonly referred to as 'Hogarth's Act,' as a protection for writers and artists. During the 1730s Hogarth also developed into an original painter of life-sized portraits, and created the first of several history paintings in the grand manner.
Paulson 132 iv/iv, BM Satires 2158
Condition: Light toning to sheet. Vertical creases and toning to edges of sheet where paper has been folded when previously framed, not affecting the image or plate. Unidentified watermark of two lines of text eagle.