|Published||Invented, Engraved & Published Decbr: ye: 15th: 1736. by Wm: Hogarth Pursuant to an Act of Parliament [John & Josiah Boydell, London 1790]|
|Dimensions||Images 372 x 302 mm, Plates 425 x 325 mm, Sheets 645 x 475 mm|
Hogarth's 'Before' and 'After,' loosely based on two sets of paintings that Hogarth completed on the theme of 'Before' and 'After,' one series set outdoors, the other indoors. The prints were evidently regarded as pornographic, or at least too risqué, as they were frequently omitted in folios of Hogarth's works, particularly the later printings by Boydell, and even in some of the sets produced by Mrs Hogarth following her husband's death. Paulson explains that in the Heath edition, they are to be found at the back, concealed in an envelope. The identification of the male lover is usually agreed to be Sir John Willes, Chief Justice of the Court of Pleas, who had a reputation as a 'hanging judge,' as well as being a notorious rake. Willes is also one of the subjects of Hogarth's later painting, The Bench, and its associated print. Although usually suppressed in the Boydell editions this set, although from a Boydell folio, is inscribed below each image to the right: 'Price two Shillings & 6 pence.' indicating second rather than third state impressions.
Before: The scene is that of a lady's bedroom. The lady, wearing skirts, a veil, and a pearl necklace, is unsuccessfully resisting the amorous advances of her excited lover, who pulls her towards the bed. His face is set in a lecherous leer, and his periwig is knocked off by the lady's hand as she presses her palm against his face in an attempt to avoid his grasp. His right hand grabs at her skirts while his left is hooked around her waist. In the stuggle, the lady knocks over a mirrored side table, the drawer of which opens to reveal a sermon 'The Practice of Piety.' A small dog yaps excitedly at the struggle, overturning the lady's cosmetics as it jumps up at her. Next to the large, curtained, four-poster bed a frame titled 'Before' depicts Cupid setting off a firework, a none too subtle allusion to the man's current predicament. Paulson has suggested that despite her overt display of resistance, certain clues in the image suggest that the display is actually a false show of modesty. The lady's corset has already been removed and placed on a chair prior to her paramour's arrival, and despite the sermon packed away in the drawer, the volume on the table, and thus the one she was reading prior to the scene, is a collection of the pornographic poems of Rochester, the notorious libertine John Wilmot.
Paulson 141 ii/iii
After: Following their romantic interlude, the enthusiasm of the couple has shifted. The lover, looking decidedly harassed and ashamed, attempts to straighten out his tousled appearance. His wig is mussed, his collar open, and his coat ruffled and unbuttoned as he attempts to do up his trousers. The lady, by contrast, cajoles him, blurry eyed, stroking his stomach and resting her head against his coatsleeves. The curtain of the four-poster has been pulled down in the excitement, the mirror has completed its fall from the upturned side-table and now lies smashed at the couple's feet, as does a chamber pot which formerly sat under the bed. The dog, worn out by all of his yapping, has curled up asleep under the chair. Another of the lady's books, a volume of Aristotle, is open to a page that reads appropriately 'Omne Animal Post Coitum Triste' ('Every creature is sad after sex'). To complete the comparison, the fall of the sidetable has revealed another picture on the wall, labelled 'After,' in which Cupid coyly points to the spent firework.
Paulson 142 ii/iii
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.
Condition: Strong clean impressions with full margins. Minor waterstaining to bottom of sheets, not affecting plate or image. Patch of insect damage to top left margin of 'Before.'