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Genuine, original William Hogarth engravings and etchings from Darvill's Rare Prints

William Hogarth was an English painter and printmaker who poignantly commented the English society of the eighteenth century with biting satire. The career and life of Hogarth were as unusual as his prints.

William was born as the son of a shopkeeper (his mother) and a schoolmaster and publisher. The youth of William was overshadowed by the chronic financial problems of his father, who was even imprisoned because of his debts. This humiliating experience formed Hogarth for the rest of his life.

Hogarth started an apprenticeship as a silversmith in 1714, but never finished it. He then tried his luck as an independent engraver for copper plates. His early commissions were for cards, book illustrations and single prints. In 1720, he registered at the John Vanderbank Art Academy. Around 1726 or earlier, he was taught painting by James Thornhill whose daughter he later married. He earned some reputation for theater decoration paintings.

Hogarth experienced his first big financial success with A Harlot's Progress, a series of paintings from which he produced engravings in 1732. Only the engravings survived. The paintings were lost in a fire in 1755.

A Harlot's Progress is a set of 6 prints about the hapless life of a prostitute. It was a completely new kind of genre prints that were referred as moral history subjects.

After the big success of A Harlot's Progress, Hogarth published a male counterpart series, A Rake's Progress - a story in eight plates showing the decline of a promising young man into a life of drinking and immoral behavior.

In 1743, the painting series Marriage à la Mode was completed. It is considered his masterpiece. In Marriage à la Mode Hogarth turned his satire on the follies of the upper classes. The theme of this series is about marriage for money. Although the prints of Marriage à la Mode sold well, the paintings did not. Therefore all prints designed afterwards, were created exclusively as print designs without any painted counterparts.

In 1747 followed the series Industry and Idleness, a moral story of an idle and an industrious apprentice in twelve plates.

In 1753 Hogarth wrote his book The Analysis of Beauty, a wrap-up of his artistic and esthetic principles.

Hogarth was a very controversial and individual character. Driven by a sense for justice, he missed no chance to get into a quarrel with his contemporaries. His most hated enemy was the British politician John Wilkes, whom he had ridiculed in one of his engravings. William Hogarth died on October 26, 1764.


Excerpts from Engravings by Hogarth
edited by Sean Shesgreen
[Dover, 1973]


This iconoclastic print is a witty play on the comic incongruity betwen the dignity, grandeur and mythic dimensions of the roles, costumes and symbols of classical culture and the earthy, vexed and common nature of the real lives of the players who are now the guardians and transmitters of this past.

In 1737 "the Act against Strolling Players" (a copy of it sits on the crown) mad it illegal for plays to be performed outside of London and Westminster without a license; this troupe is giving its last performance before the act takes effect. The playbills on the bed announce the evening's varied entertainments. "By a Company of Comdians from The Theatres at London at the George Inn This Present Evening will be Presented The Devil to Pay in Heaven Being the last time of Acting Before ye Act Commences." Next to this lies the company's playbill, "Heaven...Being the last...Act Commences...The part of Jupiter by Mrs Bilvillage / Diana Mrs... / Siren Mrs... / Flora Mrs... / Aurora Mrs... / Juno by Mrs... / Juno by Mrs... / Eagle by Mrs ... / Night Mrs... / Cupid Mrs... / two Devils Ghost & Attendance / To which will be added Ropedancing & Tumbling / Vivat Rex."

In the center of the scene set in a barn, the girl playing Diana postures exaggeratedly. Though her head is dressed with flowers, plumes, pearls, and a crescent, the body of this girl playing the goddess of chastity is half-naked, invariably a sign of casual sexual morality in Hogarth's work. Beside her foot stands a plaque of the head of Medusa, as if distraught at the scene before her. At an altar next to Diana two little children dressed as devils quarrel over a tankard of beer. Beside the beer mug on the alter stand's Diana's robust lunch: her glass, some tobacco in a paper, her smouldering pipe and some bread. Next to the altar the end of a cat's tail (to leave tail for further amputations) is being sacrificed by two women to provide blood for a scence in the play. The figure dressed as a page is being clawed on the stomach and hands by an animal while the one-eyed crone with the tiny dagger in her cloak delights in the operation.

At the extreme right, Juno, looking skyward, practices her lines while a monkey urinates in front of her into a plumed Roman helmet; as teh goddess props her leg on a wheelbarrow, Night darns a hole in her stocking. Juno's book rests against a decorated salt box with a rolling pin in it (both used a noise makers). A thunderbolt and tinder box lie beside the salt box on the dilapidated trunk. Near the wheelbarrow lie a cushion, Night's lantern, a mitre filled with books entitled "Tragedys," "Farce," and "Farces." Next to the mitre lie a wig, a halter, a mantle, and two cups containing juggling balls. Two kittens play with a regal orb and a lyre.

Candles stuck in clay for illuminating the stage rest on the floor; an iron grill sits against a bed on which lie four eggs, one of them broken. A full chamber pot stands beside an elaborate crown which serves as a stand for a saucepan of pap. Next to the crown a figure wearing a terrifying eagle costume attempts to feed a baby. The child, scared by the threatening beak of the bird, spews out his food. Above them, a siren offers a half-dressed Ganymede a drink to relieve her toothache while a dark-skinned Aurora kills lice on the siren's dress.

Next to them stand a portico decorated with flowers, tow sets of waves (on which three hens roost), a drum, a trumpet, and a brush. Beside the siren's fishtail, Flora, wearing a hoop with her blouse fron open, dresses her hair with flour and wax. She sits before a mirror fragment that rests on a wicker basket labeled "Jewels." A comb and a shell containing cosmetics lie next to the mirror. The candle beside the bed has ignited the jewel chest. Behind Diana, Apollo holds a ladder and with a cupid's bow points out a pair of stockings (which hang from a cloud) to the little winged figure who climbs a ladder and stretches on tiptoes to reach them.

The company props are stored in the roof. They include two dragons, a chariot, "Oedipus," and "Jocasta" in a cloud hidden behind the English flag with St. George's cross, a flail on some straw, and two wings of scenery representing forests. On a trestle stand a palette and brushes, a chamber pot used for painting scenery, and a Roman legion standard and a banner inscribed "SPQR." Two caps, ruffles, a shirt, and and apron hang on a line to dry. A boy peeps curiously at the scene through a hole in the roof.


Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn

(click image to enlarge, Darvill's electronic watermark does not appear on actual engraving)

Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn

Original Copperplate Engraving and Etching
Invented, Painted, Engraved and Published by William Hogarth from:
The Works of William Hogarth from the Original Plates Restored by James Heath, Esq., R.A.; With the Addition of Many Subjects Not Before Collected: To Which is Prefixed, a Biographical Essay on the Genius and Productions of Hogarth, and Explanations on the Subjects of the Plates by John Nichols, Esq., F.S.A.

London. Printed for Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, Paternoster Row
by Nichols and Son, Parliament Street
— 1822 —

An original copperplate engraving over 200 years old.

Sheet size: approx. 25 1/4 inches x 19 1/2 inches
Plate size: approx. 21 3/16 x 16 11/16 inches

Condition: Excellent, with only some scattered unobtrusive fox marks in the margins and a couple of stabilized short tears and bumping along bottom edge, well outside of image area. (Click thumbnail above for enlarged view of entire plate.)



Strolling Players
(click image to enlarge)

Strolling Players

"The Works of William Hogarth
in a Series of Engravings: with descriptions and a
Comment on Their Moral Tendency
by the Rev. John Trusler"

(Jones and Co., Temple of the Muses, (Late Lackington's), Finsbury Square, London, 1833)

Original 180+-year-old copperplate engraving

Sheet size: 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches
original text accompanies engraving

Condition: Fair, some foxing. Please refer to detailed scan by clicking on thumbnail image provided.


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