“ Kent’s Inept Painting … was ordered removed ”

William Hogarth, Altarpiece in St. Clement Danes, WestminsterHogarth, William (1697 London 1764). A Burlesque on Kent’s Altarpiece at St. Clement Danes Church, Westminster. Angels making music, presented by Hogarth in detail per alphabetic key A-K. Engraving. Inscribed as below. 13¼ × 7⅞ in (33.7 × 19.9 cm). – Nagler 6.

“ This Print is exactly Engrav’d after ye Celebrated Altar Peice (sic!) in St. Clements Church which has been taken down by Order of ye Lord Bishop of London (as tis thought) to prevent Disputs and Laying of wagers among ye Parishoners about ye Artists meaning in it. for publick Satisfaction here is a particular Explanation of it humbly Offerd to be writ under ye Original, that it may be put up again by which means ye Parich’es 60 pounds which thay nisely gave for it, may not be Entirely lost

1st. Tis not the Pretenders Wife and Children as our weak brethren imagin

2ly Nor St. Cecilia as the Connoisseurs think but a Choir of Angells playing in Consort ”

“ In 1725 Hogarth had published a burlesque etching of an altarpiece painted by William Kent (architect, designer, painter; Bridlington, Yorks. 1685 – London 1748) for the church of Saint Clement Danes. He exaggerates Kent’s inept painting and gives one of the angels what is clearly (to judge by contemporary portraits) the likeness of Clementina, Princess Sobieski, the wife of James III, the Jacobite Pretender. What Hogarth knew about Kent was that he had studied in Rome, was influenced by Catholic painting, and had even been awarded the Pope’s Prize for one of his paintings. It is also possible that the clergy of Saint Clement Danes, which had Jacobite leanings, had paid Kent to include the portrait of Clementina (appropriate for St. Clement’s). In any case, outraged contemporaries had made this claim, and the painting was ordered removed … Hogarth confirmed the likeness in his burlesque, thereby drawing attention to the popery of Kent’s painting (whether or not, as has recently been argued, Kent and his patron the earl of Burlington were in fact crypto-Jacobites).

“ The issue here was not blasphemy but Jacobitism and gives a good idea of what most offended Londoners … ”

(Ronald Paulson, Hogarth’s Harlot: Sacred Parody in Enlightenment England [2003], pp. 59. f.).

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”]). – In the extremely wide lateral margins far lower right faint tidemark.

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