The Bathos, or Tailpiece

Method Copper engraving and etching
Artist William Hogarth
Published Design'd and Engrav'd by Wm. Hogarth. Publishd according to Act of Parliamt. March 3d. 1764. [J & J Boydell c.1802]
Dimensions Image 260 x 323 mm, Plate 321 x 335 mm, Sheet 470 x 645 mm
Notes An engraving of the world's end, designed by Hogarth to act as the Tailpiece in bindings of his collected works, and appropriately his final published work. The scene is a response to the new fashion, championed by Burke and discussed by Pope in Peri Bathous, for the 'sublime' in British art. Here, the term 'Bathos' describes the 'sinking' of poetry and fine art from the sublime to the ridiculous. The scene is a pastiche of almost all of the common artistic allegories for the end of times. The central figure of Time is slouched against a broken column, his broken hourglass and scythe resting across him. He holds a broken pipe in his left hand, and with his final breathe, puffs out a cloud of smoke, which, before dissipating, spells out the word 'FINIS.' His Last Will and Testament has fallen from his right hand, showing that he has left all things to Chaos. The document is appropriately witnessed by the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who have impressed their seals beside their names. The foreground is littered with symbols of death, time run short, and immateriality. A document, sealed with a large boss featuring Death on a Pale Horse indicates that Human Nature is Backrupt. A open prayer-book is inscribed 'Exeunt Omnes' ('All Exit'). The cobbler's last shoe, a snapped bow, a piece of the Royal Crown, the butt of a musket, a worn-down broom, a cracked bell, a smashed bottle, and the stub of a candle which sets alight a page of 'The Times' are all symbols of impending oblivion. Hogarth's palette is cracked and lies abandoned amongst the other refuse of time. In the background, the 'World's End' Pub, with its apocalyptic sign, has fallen into ruin, as has the tower of a church, the clock of which has lost its hands. In the distance, a hanged man is suspended from a gallows by the shore, where a shipwreck sinks into the sea. The moon wanes, and Helios lies still in his chariot, his horses dead on a cloud. At the top of the plate is a simple title 'Tail Piece.' Below the image is a detailed, multi-part inscription, which describes the print as 'The Bathos, or Manner of Sinking, in Sublime Paintings, inscribed to the Dealers in Dark Pictures.' To either side of this are two ovals, within which are cones. To the left, the inscription explains one of the cones to be the cult statue of Aphrodite of Paphos from Cyprus, the ancient descriptions of which, from Tacitus and Maximus of Tyre, are inscribed below the title. To the right is Hogarth's Line of Beauty, which has now been superceded in artistic circles by the Burkean Sublime.

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 216 i/i, BM Satires 4106

Condition: Water stain to left side of sheet, some minor toning. Paper watermarked 'S.Lay 1802'.
Framing unmounted
Price £285.00
Stock ID 48290