Beth: And sensuality and lovemaking. In the room just past where they are, we see images of saints, so we have Hogarth commenting on immorality of this couple. Steven: To make sure that we don't miss these signals, Hogarth has placed a third figure in the foreground. He's a kind of accountant and you can see that he's had it; he holds receipts, he holds bills and he's thrown his hands up.
He can't get this young couple to take their finances seriously. Beth: If you look at the mantlepiece, we've got all sorts of knick-knacks lined up there that look like they have been recently purchased and look inexpensive and gaudy compared to this aristocratic environment with these oil paintings and gilded frames. Steven: That's the contrast that's important I think, for Hogarth here. He's making this sharp, distinction between these tawdry things that they've brought in, this young couple, and the classicism that is a part of this aristocratic life.
Beth: The aristocracy has this reputation that they've inherited, these values that have accrued to them over centuries, but they're values that don't reflect the reality of their lives. Steven: We can also see an addition, perhaps a painting that the man has brought in, it's partially obscured by a curtain and all that's visible is a nude foot. Beth: On a bed. Steven: On a bed, so this would have been a very clear signal in the 18th century to a lewd painting.
In all of these paintings actually, the artwork really tells a meta story. They comment on a scene that's being enacted and we can see that right over the mantle. We have a Classical sculpture, but its nose is broken as if it had been knocked over at some party. Behind it, a painting of Cupid among the ruins, that is; love itself is here ruined, love itself has become a disaster. Let's look at the third painting. This canvas is called "The Inspection" and it takes place in a doctor's office. Beth: The apothecary or the doctor on the left seems to be cleaning his glasses which makes one worried about the kind of inspection he's going to perform.
The woman behind him is obviously his assistant, but they're both clearly suffering from Syphilis. Steven: This is an important point; Lord Squanderfield, the younger Lord Squanderfield, actually has a sign of Syphilis which is that large, black form on his neck and we see that throughout these canvases. We know he is likely visiting prostitutes. He is living up a life in debauchery right from the beginning, clearly infecting his young wife.
Beth: And here clearly has infected a young woman who he's brought with him to the doctor's office. It's just ghastly. Steven: Hogarth is doing everything he can to remove any kind of sympathy we could possibly have for this young man. Beth: He seems to be saying to the apothecary, "Your medicine isn't working. Give me my money back. Look at the kind of caricature that Hogarth brings to the rendering of these figures. The apothecary himself, that's just a disreputable face. Beth: But again, the surroundings tell us something about the figures.
In the medical cabinet, you see a model of a human figure next to a skeletal model. Even on the left side we see a skull which is also a symbol of death, but no one is taking seriously the fact that they're going to die one day. Steven: In fact, the young Lord Squanderfield here seems to be in a very good mood.
Let's move onto the fourth canvas. Beth: This one is called "The Toilette" so that means here that the woman is at her dressing table. She's having her hair done, she's getting all dressed up, she's having her makeup done and she's surrounded by her friends. Notice that she's not with her child. We do have an indication that she's had a child because we have a string of coral beads that would have been used for teething for children, but her child is never in sight.
She's not a good mother. She's hanging out with her friends instead. Steven: She's in her bedroom and her bedroom is this very public place which is not so uncommon for the aristocracy, but we see on the left, for a second time now the counselor Silvertongue and he looks right at home. This to the 18th century would have suggested that he was actually illicitly the young woman's lover now. Remember, he was the one who was trying to talk her into the marriage, to console her.
He has taken full advantage. Beth: There's music-making and drinking and obviously figures who are also suffering from Syphilis. The figure on the far right seems to be holding tickets and pointing to an image of a masked ball. Steven: The paintings on the wall that we're seeing are all so important and make a kind of comment on the scene that we see paintings that are about the trespassing of norms of behavior.
Of course, that's exactly what this painting's about.
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Beth: Two of the paintings on the wall are about Zeus disguising himself in order to have a love affair and that's exactly what we're going to see actually in the next scene. Steven: Here it's night. Here is the fifth painting. Here we're no longer in an aristocratic house, we're in a place of disrepute. This is the kind of room that you would hire when you didn't want anybody to know what you were doing. What we see is the young woman on her knees as her lover, that would be Silvertongue, flees out the window. He's fleeing because he's just impaled her husband with his sword.
She's beseeching him asking for forgiveness because Silvertongue and the young woman were caught in the act.
Marriage a-la-Mode by John Dryden | Poetry Foundation
Beth: They have clearly been at a masked ball. We see their discarded clothing, we see a mask. Steven: So in the last scene, Hogarth sums up by showing the death of the young woman, so now the husband and the wife are dead. The wife has died because she's poisoned herself when she's read in the newspaper that's at her feet, that her lover, Silvertongue, has been hanged. Beth: For the murder of her husband, that's right. We see the nurse bringing her her child to say goodbye to its mother.
It's a terrible scene.
We also see a Syphilis spot on the child's cheek so we know that the child is sick and this couple is irredeemable. The entire practice of a marriage that's based on this kind of economic exchange instead of love. It's really indicted. Steven: Look Her very father is taking a good ring from her finger even as she lays dying. Focuses on greed Lord Squanderfield steals her ring, the dog steals the pig's head off the table, etc. Includes various symbols of changing times namely, the Thames river and the built-up city outside the window.
Set in the midth century at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution as shown in the clothing throughout the work. At this time, a middle class that wanted to buy art emerged and art became more accessible especially through prints! Thus, the aristocracy lost some power to the merchant class.
William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode (including Tête à Tête)
Medium: Oil on canvas. Size: Composition: A few objects in the foreground, but overall fairly empty. All central figures in the middle ground the obvious "focal ground" of the painting The background consists mostly of a separate room, architectural features, and paintings. One clear area of emphasis is the cluttered mantlepiece, positioned strategically between and a little above the couple. Verticals lines are found the in the edges of the paintings and in the columns. Curved lines are seen most prominently in the arch between rooms.
This second painting of the set shows the young couple just after their forced marriage and things are not looking good. The scene is set in a lavishly decorated room with plenty of art pieces, a fancy carpet, gold-outlined architecture, and a chandelier. The husband, Viscount Squanderfield is seen slouching in a chair on the right.
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He looks out of it -- sort of staring into the carpet. He has his legs splayed out. Possibly drunk.
Marriage à la Mode: The Marriage Settlement by William Hogarth
He has a dot on his neck that would have been recognizable to the people of the day as the mark of syphilis. He looks exhausted. Has likely just returned from a night of womanizing. A dog a sign of fidelity in the Renaissance sniffs at a bonnet in his pocket, insinuating that he's been intimate with another woman. The wife, Viscountess Squanderfield, sits on the left looking quite ruffled. She smirks a little and looks relaxed and quite flirtatious. The top of her bodice is undone, insinuating that she's been intimate with another man.
She holds a mirror in her right hand above her head. Her gaze points towards the bottom left portion of the canvas.
She has a stain on her dress. She sits with her legs apart, a position that's not very ladylike nor dignified. The account stands perplexed on the middle ground of the left side of the painting.