The Battle of the Pictures

Method Copper engraving and etching
Artist William Hogarth
Published [J & J Boydell c.1795]
Dimensions Image 175 x 200 mm, Plate 198 x 213 mm, Sheet 305 x 475 mm
Notes A satirical scene of a battle between Old Master paintings and the modern paintings of Hogarth, designed as an entry ticket for an auction of Hogarth's works in February 1745. The sale was not an overly successful one for Hogarth, despite the calibre of his works on offer, which included 'A Harlot's Progress,' 'A Rake's Progress,' 'The Four Times of Day,' and 'Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn.' The image on the ticket depicts an auction house, where row upon row of Old Master works are ranked as if for battle. The suggestion is that some of the most popular, including Europa and the Bull, Apollo Flaying Marsyas, and St Andrew on the Cross appeared so frequently in such sales that the majority must have been forgeries. The endless ranks of reproductions are suggested by the addition of 'Dto' ('Ditto') to the corners of each. Despite this, even forgeries of Old Masters frequently outsold modern works, as can be seen by the battle, where a number of Hogarth's own pictures are pierced or bashed by religious and classical images of similar composition. In the corner of the scene, Hogarth's characteristic palette and bunch of brushes is used almost as a stamp of approval on the ticket. The print weighs in on the contemporary 'Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns,' inspired directly by Swift's short literary satire 'The Battle of the Books.' The Inscription above reads: The Bearer hereof is Entitled (if he thinks proper,) to be a Bidder for Mr. Hogarth's Pictures, which are to be Sold on the Last day of this Month.

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 157 i/i, BM Satires 2622

Condition: Water stain to lower half of sheet, affecting bottom section of plate. Tear to bottom margin, not affecting image or plate.
Framing unmounted
Price £95.00
Stock ID 48288