|Published||Invented, Painted, & Engrav'd by Wm. Hogarth, & Publish'd June ye. 25 1735, According to Act of Parliament.|
|Dimensions||Image 315 x 386 mm, Plate 355 x 405 mm, Sheet 427 x 562 mm|
Plate 4 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 4: Tom's debts have started to catch up with him, as he is pulled from his sedan chair by a group of Welsh bailiffs, leeks in their hats and arrest warrants in their hands. Tom seems genuinely surprised, but ultimately ungrateful, for the intervention of the good-hearted Sarah Young, who pays off the bailiffs from her own earnings, a box falling from her arm suggesting she is now employed as a milliner. A lamp-lighter, distracted by the scene, accidently pours oil over Tom's head, a perverse allusion to the Christian benediction Tom is too self-involved to appreciate. In the foreground, a group of urchins play at cards, while one of their number picks Tom's pockets. In the background, a lightning strike crashes above St James Palace, presaging future wickednesses and the inevitable Divine Wrath that will follow.
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 135 iii/iii, BM Satires 2202
Condition: Light toning to sheet. Vertical creases and toning to edges of sheet where paper has been folded when previously framed, some loss to the lower of sheet all not affecting the image or plate. Unidentified watermark of a crowned two headed eagle.