The Company of Undertakers or Quacks in Consultation

Method Copper engraving and etching
Artist William Hogarth
Published Publish'd by W. Hogarth. March the 3d. 1736. [J & J Boydell c.1795]
Dimensions Image 219 x 179 mm, Plate 264 x 180 mm, Sheet 347 x 232 mm
Notes A parody coat of arms for quack doctors, here hailed sardonically as 'The Company of Undertakers.' In completing this engraving, Hogarth demonstrates his familiarity with the rules of Heraldry, knowledge likely acquired when he was an apprentice. The shield of the physicians is set up on a black ground and supported by a pair of crossed bones, both suggestive of recent death. The inscription in the ribbon, et plurima mortis imago ('and in all places the visage of death') refers to the horrific scenes of the Trojan War as told in Aeneid Book 2. On the shield, a group of quacks stand in idle consultation around a urinal. The two at the front examine it with their eye-glasses, while the bearer points to its rim. The others hold the heads of their canes to the noses and mouths, aping the standard gesture of intense contemplation that typified physicians of the era. Above them, arising as if from a cloud, are the three most prominent quacks of the day. At centre, despite being described as a man, is Mrs Sarah Mapp, a 'bone-setter,' who points to her bone-shaped cane and wears the motley of a circus performer. Her physical size and strength are lampooned as qualifying her as a 'Compleat Doctor.' The two slighter men on either side are only 'Demi-Doctors.' To her left is the quack oculist John Taylor, giving her a knowing wink while clutching a cane decorated with the all-seeing eye. To her right is Dr Joshua Ward, inventor of a pill made of antimony and arsenic, which Paulson comments led to miraculous cure or death in 'about equal proportion.' His face, divided vertically in two like a crest, makes reference to a birth mark that led his nickname 'Spot.' The crest of the quacks is described in mock heraldic language below: 'The Company of Undertakers. Beareth Sable, an Urinal proper, between 12 Quack-Heads of the second & 12 Cane Heads Or, Consultant. On a Chief Nebulae, Ermine, One Compleat Doctor issuant, checkie sustaining in his Right Hand a Baton of the second. On his Dexter & sinister sides two Demi-Doctors, issuant of the second, & two Cane Heads issuant of the third; The first having One Eye conchant, towards the Dexter Side of the Escocheon; the Second Faced per pale proper & Gules, Guardent. - With this Motto - Et Plurima Mortis Imago.'

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 144 ii/ii, BM Satires 2299

Condition: Water stain to bottom half of sheet just affecting plate.
Framing unmounted
Price £250.00
Stock ID 38113