See captions below for:
A Harlot's Progress, Plate I, The Arrival of the Harlot in London
Polly (Moll) Hackabout, a beautiful and innocent young country girl, has just stepped out of her carriage into London's Thames Street. The Procuress Needham, a well-known bawd of her time, welcomes and inspects Moll, recruiting her for her new profession.
A Harlot's Progress, Plate II, The Harlot Deceiving her Jewish Protector
Moll is now earning her living as the mistress of a distinguished Jew. She has become a confident prostitute, as her exposed breast and aggressive kick indicate.
A Harlot's Progress, Plate III, The Harlot at Her Dwelling in Drury Lane
An elderly female companion, her nose decayed by syphilis, joins Moll as her protector and maidservant. Moll's one-room dwelling bears the trophies of her trade: two vials of 'cures' for venereal disease rest conveniently on the portraits above her bed, while Moll dangles a watch stolen from last night's customer. Her preparation for her next client will soon be interrupted by her arrest.
A Harlot's Progress, Plate IV, The Harlot Beating Hemp in Bridewell
Sentenced to Bridewell Prison and no longer self-employed, Moll is forced to beat hemp with the other inmates. Moll's faithful companion flashes a leg in the right foreground to distract the guards and allow Moll to rest.
A Harlot's Progress, Plate V, The Death of the Harlot
Moll is dying of syphilis, a disease that threatened the profession of prostitution in the eighteenth century. Depicted in head covering and robe reminiscent of images of the Virgin Mary, Moll commands our sympathy. Her cold-hearted landlady-another working woman-joins the tax collectors to claim her share from the dying harlot.
A Harlot's Progress, Plate VI, The Funeral of the Harlot
Moll has passed away at twenty-three years of age, yet her funeral attendants show no remorse. The clergyman's hand is hidden up the skirt of the prostitute beside him, while Moll's orphaned son plays unknowingly in the foreground. Her faithful companion-to-the-end beats her fist in disgust at the lack of grieving. One young harlot examines Moll's corpse with a sad yet hopeless expression: the cycle is repeated.
A Rake's Progress, Plate I, The Young Heir Taking Possession
Tom Rakewell has come down from Oxford to take over his inheritance after the death of his miserly but wealthy father. Tom is trying to buy off Sarah Young, whom he has impregnated and now wishes to disavow, having come into money and his own enlarged prospects. His steward or lawyer, meanwhile, is stealing money from him. All the while, a tailor measures Tom.
A Rake's Progress, Plate II, Surrounded by Artists and Professors
Here Tom is surrounded by the various professionals who court the wealthy and are shown off by the wealthy: gardener, musician, jockey, dancing master, fencing master, man of honor (in case of duels), etc. A poet stares out the window in the background, neglected. The painting on the wall features The Judgment of Paris, a mythological paradigm for crucial and consequential choice: the young prince Paris is asked to decide which of three goddesses had the best prize to offer him: Hera offered power; Athena offered knowledge; Aphrodite offered him the world's most beautiful woman (Helen of Troy).
A Rake's Progress, Plate III, The Tavern Scene
In a Drury Lane tavern, London, Tom reposes after a drunken brawl that evidently involved a peace officer and others. Tom's watch is being stolen. A porter is bringing a tray upon which the disrobing women will soon perform the naked contortions for which she is famous, feats supposedly involving unmentionable deployments of the candle that he also bears.
A Rake's Progress, Plate IV, Arrested for Debt
On his way to a party in celebration of the Queen's birthday, Tom is arrested for debt, but Sarah, who chances by, offers money to free him, saved up from her meager life as a seamstress. In some versions of the engraving, lightning strikes from the sky toward the gambling house, White's, depicted in Plate VI.
A Rake's Progress, Plate V, Marries an Wealthy Old Maid
Here Tom is marrying an old woman for her money in a Marylebone High Church, often used for secretive weddings. Sarah and her mother struggle vainly to break in a the door, but the pew keeper fights them off, so as not to lose the expected fee from the marrying couple. The church is broken down, the poor-box is cobwebbed (suggesting the character of the church's visitors), two dogs are courting, the female one-eyed like the old lady, Tom is already leering at the old lady's attendant.
A Rake's Progress, Plate VI, Scene in a Gaming House
Momentarily restored with funds, Tom gambles in White's, a house that broke out in fire some two years before Hogarth's series. Flames are about to burst through the walls in many versions of the engraving, but even then most of the gamblers are variously too dejected or obsessed to notice. Tom is on his knees, his wig fallen off, and he is cursing the heavens.
A Rake's Progress, Plate VII, Prison Scene
In Fleet prison for debt, his old wife scorns him while his faithful Sarah and child bemoan his fate. Tom has written a play to raise money but the producer's or publisher's rejection is on the table. Other debtors are trying other schemes: alchemy, flight with wings, projects for paying the national debt.
A Rake's Progress, Plate VIII, Scene in Bedlam
Bedlam, common name for Bethlehem insane asylum, finds Tom in his final paroxysms before death. His pose much like that of a Christian Pietà, he is in manacles, presumably to keep him from hurting himself or others in his madness. Sarah attends him. Two fashionable young women are looking on casually for amusement at the sight of lunatics; a religious fanatic adores a cross; a man who thinks he's King pisses toward the guests; a musician toward the stairs thinks he's the Pope. Finally, bitterly recalling the tailor from Plate I, a madman approaches Tom to measure him for a death shroud.
This set depicts the corruption of a marriage, brought about when a wealthy merchant hopes to boost his family reputation by marrying his daughter to the son of a financially troubled noble family.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate 1: The Contract
The scene here is Count Squander's parlor. It is decorated with paintings of gloomy and bloody episodes from the Old Testament and the gruesome fates of Christian martyrs. Portents of impending doom for the oblivious groom and bride, the works of art foretell the disastrous outcome of the arranged marriage.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate II: The Breakfast Scene:
The disharmony in the union of two separate classes is revealed by the clash of 'high art' (in the form of a Roman bust) and 'low art' (in the form of various cheap trinkets on the mantelpiece.) In the engraving, the adjacent room's paintings of saints are placed in blasphemous proximity to another painting so lascivious it must be concealed by a curtain.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate III: The Scene with the Quack:
In the low-ceilinged rooms of a quack, the Viscount seeks a cure for the venereal disease he has passed on to a young girl (whose handkerchief may hide a syphilitic sore on her lip). Grotesque 'freaks' used for references in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century medical journals appear on the back wall, emphasizing the ugliness of Viscount Squander's moral deformity. Other visual commentaries upon Squander's moral decay include a skeleton who consorts with a human figure and the bodiless head of a wigged 'nobleman,' highlighted by Squander's cane.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate IV: The Toilette:
Seated before her dressing table in her boudoir flirting with the lawyer Silvertongue, from Plate I, the Viscountess has clearly embarked on a life of adultery all her own. Both the presence of eccentric fops and dandies and Silvertongue's gesture to a screen depicting a masquerade suggest questionable or illicit sexual activity. Above the Viscountess' head, Caravaggio's Lot's Daughters intoxicate their father in order to seduce him, while Correggio's Jupiter and Io show Io's rape by Zeus, who takes the form of a cloud. Finally, on the far left (in the painting) the reference to homosexuality through Rembrandt's The Ganymede emphasizes the questionable erotics of the cluster of overtly feminine fops and the castrati seated below. Hanging above this painting is a portrait of Silvertongue.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate V: The Death of the Earl:
The adultery of the Countess has resulted in a duel between her husband and Silvertongue, who escapes out the window. Mortally wounded, Viscount Squander's awkward pose mimics a Deposition scene in which a repentant Magdalen (the Viscountess) kneels before 'Christ.' A portrait of a harlot hangs behind the Countess, suggestive of her licentious acts. St. Luke, while he is often depicted painting the Virgin Mary, here, above the door, he records the scene of debased femininity before him.
Marriage à la Mode, Plate VI: The Death of the Countess:
The Viscount dead, his wife has taken a fatal dose of poison and collapsed in the company of her syphilitic child and her father, who removes her wedding ring before rigor mortis sets in. Dutch genre paintings on the walls of this modest interior exemplify the type of art collected by eighteenth-century British middling classes, which Hogarth considered unrefined in taste.
Ancient pastoral poetry often featured four-part cycles: four times of the day, four seasons, four temperaments, four ages of man and so forth. Hogarth recasts the form for modern satirical purposes in Four Times of the Day, with images entitled "Morning," "Noon," "Evening" and "Night." In "Noon," depicted here, sober, well-dressed and fashionable Huguenots (French Calvinists) on the right side of the image are leaving the French church in Hog Lane, London. A gutter with a dead cat separates the church-goers from the English rabble on the left, all cheerfully indulging earthy lusts. In ancient treatments of the "times of the day" theme, the gods preside over the pleasures of a peaceful outdoor meal at noon. In Hogarth's version, the feast is very different. An old man and woman are at a window of the Maiden Tavern as the woman drops a large joint of meat (lamb or pork, it seems) out of the window. For readers of sufficiently ribald imagination, the meat is shaped to suggest at once male and female genitalia. Near to them, a sign representing the maiden juts out from the building, but there is no head on the figure (thus a "lost maidenhead"). On the lower left, an attractive girl lets her pie tip as she is fondled by a black companion. The dripping from her pie has been understood to suggest ejaculate.
These are closely related images. One of the period's most notable painters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, had praised the noble and pious "enthusiasm" of master painters such as Michelangelo while, at the same time, criticizing the efforts of some modern painters to mix various national traditions and high and low cultural references. Both points were attacks on Hogarth's preferred mode of comic historical satire. For not only did Hogarth relish juxtaposing high and low culture, but he also tended to depict "enthusiasm"--often understood as a conviction of righteous religious privilege and inspiration--in the light of the excesses and hypocrisies that such feeling could invite. In both of Hogarth's treatments of this theme, a Muslim individual looks on through a window into the church.
In "Enthusiasm Delineated" (1761), Hogarth depicts the depravity of the Methodists, a Protestant group known for espousing "enthusiasm." Here a ranting preacher is surrounded by images referencing the artworks that Reynolds had recently praised: in the preacher's right hand, a God supported by two angels (reference to Raphael); in his left hand, a muscular devil with a gridiron (Rubens); underneath, a puppet-like pair suggesting Adam and Eve (Dürer); beside those figures, a fat St. Peter with a key (Rembrandt). Overall, Hogarth's satire is in keeping with the Puritanical Protestant values that had made theater seem suspect in Cromwell's day. The Puritan tendency is to say that visual arts verged on blasphemy and "idolatry" when depicting religious subjects, and that the effect of such art on its audience could only be a base sensualism. A case in point: the woman on the lower left is clutching a statue of Jesus, who finds himself positioned as if copulating with her. The engraving was withheld by Hogarth, whose friends persuaded him that it could be misread as an attack on religion more generally.
Hogarth soon revised and released the image as "Credulity and Superstition" (1762). He backgrounds the debate about art's relation to pious observance, and leaves the trappings in the image oriented toward religious zealotry, sensualism and the implication of heathen residues in the congregation's viewpoint. On the lower right, a thermometer juts from a human heart. The thermometer reads a scale from "Suicide" at the bottom, up through "Lukewarm" and "Love" and on up to "Lust" and finally to "Raving." The reading at present is "Lukewarm," but a halo around the word "Lust" suggests the tendency of the congregation. (A young couple under the preacher suggests the fusion of false piety and underlying sensualism: the man is placing an idol of some sort between the woman's breasts.) Atop the thermometer is an image referencing a recent hoax whereby a ghost was supposedly making knocking sounds in a girl's bedroom to accuse a man of murder. The ghost's supposed testimony was "enthusiastically" embraced by many Methodists. Various references to witches and demonology fill up Hogarth's scene. Also, the threat of Catholicism (understood as linked to sensualism and idolatry) is implied in the preacher, whose wig is falling off to reveal a Jesuit-style haircut underneath.
With the complex image The Times, Plate 1, Hogarth took an unpopular political position supporting a peace movement against the Seven Years' War (or "French-Indian War"). Underway 1756-1763. This quarrel over sovereignty and trading rights in North America had the English leader of Commons, William Pitt, supporting Prussia against France, Spain and Austria. Pitt, was supporting the war due to the economic profits that could be derived from colonial exploitation. On the right in Hogarth's image, Pitt marches on stilts, fanning the flames of a war engulfing the world. Opposing the war, mostly on the left and center, are various figures, identifiable in Hogarth's time, directing water toward the fire through fire hoses. Meanwhile, William Beckford--the Lord Mayor and a Pitt follower who made a fortune through tobacco and sugar plantations in Jamaica--appears in the doorway on the lower left. He points to a signboard advertising a naked Indian that reads 'Alive from America.'