Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism. A Medley.

Method Copper engraving and etching
Artist William Hogarth
Published Design'd and Engrav'd by Wm: Hogarth. Publish'd as the Act directs March ye 15th 1762. [J & J Boydell c.1802]
Dimensions Image 370 x 320 mm, Plate 382 x 333 mm, Sheet 645 x 475 mm
Notes A reworking of one of Hogarth's earlier works, Enthusiasm Delineated. The earlier satire, though never published, was an attack on the excessive religious enthusiasm demonstrated in by Methodist congregations, and particularly the sermons of the contemporary preacher George Whitefield, who was said to stir such emotion in himself and his listeners that in most cases he and others were reduced to ecstatic tears. This earlier print, dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was intended to support the calm, traditional nature of Anglican worship, while at the same time acting as an artistic challenge to Reynolds' encouragement of 'enthusiasm' in art. The 'enthusiasm' and overly dramatic nature of much religious art was seen by Hogarth as ultimately vulgar. Hogarth's decision to rework the plate into its current form as 'Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism,' was probably a result of the concerns of his friends that his original was too subtle in its message, and may have led some to see it as a criticism of religion more generally, rather than just the 'enthusiastic' nature of Methodism. As a result, most of the overtly Christian symbolism of the original has been removed, replaced with overt references to demonology, witchcraft, esoteria, and folk superstition.

The scene is set in a chapel, but the iconography is a curious mix of religious traditions. The crowd, screaming, crying, and grinning madly, listen to the sermon of an impassioned preacher, who speaks with such force from his pulpit that his eyes bulge and his periwig falls back from his balding head. Under his religious garments, he wears the motley of a fool. In one hand he holds up a puppet of a witch on her broomstick, who suckles a black-cat with her breast. In the other hand, he holds another puppet of a winged devil, who carries a griddle-iron, as if threatening the congregation visually with the punishments Hell has in store for practitioners of witchcraft. His sermon book is open and reads only 'I speak as a Fool,' suggesting that unlike the practiced and rational sermons of the Anglican faith, he ascribes to the spontaneous, divinely inspired ranting of the renegade cleric. His pulpit is depicted with figures who failed to heed the esoteric warnings of fate, including Julius Caesar and Sir George Villiers, both of whom were stabbed to death after failing to take seriously the predictions of a soothsayer (Caesar) and a ghost (Villiers). In the foreground, a cross-eyed cleric is hassled by winged cherubs, a devil whispers in the ear of a sleeping man, and another cleric pushes a religious icon down the blouse of a maid, his eyes rolling back in his head as he does so. On the floor, a woman has collapsed in her ecstacy and is being brought round with smelling salts, while a 'possessed' boy vomits nails and bits of rusted metal onto the floor. Down the right hand side are two meters which measure the levels of credulity, superstition, and fanaticism of the congregation. The depiction of ghosts on the capital of the lower meter was probably inspired by the infamous hoax of the Cock Lane Ghost in 1762. Below the image, an inscription on a separate plate reads, below the title, 'Believe not every Spirit, but try the Spirits whether they are of God: because many false Prophets are gone out into the World. I.John. Ch.4.VI'

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 210a iii/iii, BM Satires 1785

Condition: Excellent impression. Waterstains to bottom of sheet, not affecting plate. Small ink stain below left side of inscription, not affecting plate. 'S.Lay 1802' watermark.
Framing unmounted
Price £400.00
Stock ID 50682

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