William Hogarth, Boys peeping at Nature

Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). (Boys peeping at Nature.) Subscription Ticket for the Harlots Progress. Three putti of which one attempts to prevent a faun from peeping under many-breasted Nature’s skirt, while the two others paint and work her in copper resp. Engraving by Richard Livesay (d. Southsea 1823; pupil of Benjamin West). Inscribed: W. Hogarth invt. / Rd. Livesey Fecit / Publish’d April 23d; 1782 Pd Livesay at Mrs Hogarths Leicester Fields., otherwise as above just as with 1 line from Virgil & 3 lines from Horaz. 5½ × 5⅜ in (14.1 × 13.7 cm).

Cf. Hogarth Catalog of the Tate Gallery, 1971/72, 56a, + Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, 37a, each the 1731 Hogarth version with illustrations. – Hogarth subsequently used the plate also as ticket for Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn & The Times of Day and again 1751 after some modifications, this time for Paul before Felix and Moses brought to Pharaos Daughter. – Pictorially corresponding with the original state of 1731, but without its obsolete receipt note which was replaced by the title above, and here present in an impression on strong paper from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]).

“ The original state … introduces a new order of subject in Hogarth’s work. It indicates an erotic theme from nature, yet links it to the classical tradition of history painting. A satyr, restrained by a putto, seeks to unveil the privacy of Nature … – again with a double meaning … ”

(Lawrence Gowing, Hogarth Catalog Tate Gallery, op. cit.).

“ The implication seems to be that the arts are aware of the hidden side of nature but do not approach it lustfully, i. e. A Harlot’s Progress should be seen as a work which faces up to nature but not with prurient intent ”

(David Bindman, op. cit).

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William Hogarth, Boys Peeping at Nature (Stahlstich)

– – – The same in steel engraving about 1840. 9⅛ × 6 in (23.3 × 15.4 cm). – Above the sujets invitation ticket “on a pie for lunch at the inn of the mitre” for Mr. King + The Rape of the Lock (vignette with the representation of a scene from Pope’s poem of the same name), below the subscription ticket for the engraving The March to Finchley (against the rebels under Charles Edward Stuart of Scotland commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender).

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