Marriage à-la-mode (Hogarth)  

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Marriage à-la-mode: 2. The Tête à Tête (1743) by William Hogarth The Tête à Tête is the second canvas in the series of six satirical paintings known as Marriage à-la-mode painted by William Hogarth. The actors in this classical interior are the son of an impoverished earl, a rich merchant’s daughter and their butler.
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Marriage à-la-mode: 2. The Tête à Tête (1743) by William Hogarth
The Tête à Tête is the second canvas in the series of six satirical paintings known as Marriage à-la-mode painted by William Hogarth. The actors in this classical interior are the son of an impoverished earl, a rich merchant’s daughter and their butler.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In 17431745, William Hogarth painted the six pictures of Marriage à-la-mode (National Gallery, London), a pointed skewering of upper class 18th century society. This moralistic warning shows the disastrous results of an ill-considered marriage for money. This is regarded by many as his finest project, certainly the best example of his serially-planned story cycles.

Contents

General Commentary

In Marriage à-la-mode, Hogarth challenges the ideal view that the rich live virtuous lives and gives heavy satire to the notion of arranged marriages. In each piece, he shows the young couple and their acquaintances and family at their worst: having affairs, drinking, gambling, fornicating and engaging in numerous other vices and sins.

  • In the first of the series, he shows an arranged marriage between the son of bankrupt Earl Squanderfield and the daughter of a wealthy but miserly city merchant.
  • In the second, there are signs that the marriage has already begun to break down. The husband and wife appear uninterested in one another, amidst evidence of their separate overindulgences the night before.
  • The third in the series shows the Viscount visiting a quack with two women, to ascertain which of them gave him a sexual disease.
  • In the fourth, the old Earl has died and the son is now the new Earl and his wife, the Countess. As was the very height of fashion at the time, the Countess is holding a "Toilette", or reception, in her bedroom.
  • Next, the new Earl catches his wife with her lover, and is fatally wounded by the scoundrel. As she begs forgiveness from the stricken man, the murderer in his nightshirt makes a hasty exit through her bedroom window.
  • Finally the Countess poisons herself in her grief and poverty-stricken widowhood, after her lover is hanged at Tyburn for murdering her husband.

These pictures were at first poorly received by the public, to the great disappointment of the artist. He sold them to a Mr. Lane of Hillington for one hundred and twenty guineas. The frames alone had cost Hogarth four guineas each. So his initial remuneration for painting this valuable series was but a few shillings more than one hundred pounds. From Mr. Lane's estate, they became the property of his nephew, Colonel Cawthorn, who very highly valued them. In the year 1797 they were sold by auction at Christie's, Pall Mall, for the sum of one thousand guineas; the liberal purchaser was the late Mr. Angerstein. They now belong to the government.

It had been Hogarth's intention to follow the Marriage à-la-mode series with a companion series called The Happy Marriage, however, this series was never completed and only exists as a series of unfinished sketches. Hogarth's loss of interest was probably because a conventional and happy marriage gave little opportunity for barbed and ironic treatment of events.

Technical Commentary

Although this series of paintings are great works of art in their own right, their original purpose was to provide the subjects for the series of engraved copper plate prints. By the nature of the process, when engraving copper plates, the image engraved on the plate by the engraver is reversed, that is to say, a mirror image of the final print. Normally, when undertaking paintings that are to be engraved, the painting is produced the "right way round" — not reversed — and then the engraver views it in a mirror as he undertakes the engraving. Hogarth was an engraver himself and disliked this course of action using mirrors, so unusually, he produced the paintings for Marriage à-la-mode already reversed so the engraver could directly copy them.

It would normally be expected to view the series of prints moving from left to right and Hogarth would have taken this into account when composing the original paintings.

Naming

Commentators have used a variety of names for the individual paintings, but as the paintings are presently in the National Gallery the names used there are used here.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Marriage à-la-mode (Hogarth)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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