Columbus Breaking the Egg

Method Etching
Artist William Hogarth
Published Design'd & Etch'd by Wm: Hogarth Decem 1. 1753. [J & J Boydell c.1802]
Dimensions Image 142 x 180 mm, Plate 164 x 193 mm
Notes A scene of the apocryphal story of the 'Egg of Columbus,' originally used as the subscription ticket for Hogarth's 'The Analysis of Beauty.' The scene, modelled on Da Vinci's Last Supper, depicts Christopher Columbus seated at a table with a group of his fellows. The story concerns a group of detractors who had complained to Columbus that his journey was no great discovery, being a feat that many men could have accomplished. In retaliation, Columbus challenged the men that they could not stand an egg on its end. When his detractors admitted defeat, Columbus smashed one end of the egg, allowing it to stand. In doing so, he demonstrated that although the task was simple, it was only such now that he had shown the way. His detractors are shown equally in attitudes of frustration, revelation, and amusement. In choosing such a story, Hogarth was evidently pointing to himself as the Columbus of Art, with the landmark discovery of his serpentine 'Line of Beauty' laid out on the table in the form of the two eels resting on the plate. The tops of some of the letters of the original subscription text are still visible at the very bottom of the plate.

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 194 ii/ii, BM Satires 3192

Condition: Excellent impression with wide margins. Watermark 'S Lay.'
Framing unmounted
Price £120.00
Stock ID 43054