Two piece engraving struck from original William Hogarth plates, on paper watermarked 1818. This work is famously known for being worked on by the artist the day before his death, in October of 1764. This would make a wonderful gift or office decor piece for someone in the legal profession.
The piece consists of two elements. the first is the engraving "The Bench", which is based on his oil painting by the same name. Below that is a second engraving of commentary by the artist on the nature of Character and caricature in art, and was intended by the artist to accompany The Bench" which was used to illustrate the points made in the scripted portion.
There are a few lines in a later hand added at the bottom stating "....the unfinished groupe of heads in the upper part of this print was added by the author in Oct 7 1764. It was intended as a farther illustration of what is here said concerning Character, Caracatura and Outre. He worked upon it the day before his death, which happened on the 26th of that month.
Hogarth used cutting visual satire to point out the flaws and hypocrisy of 18th century society, from animal cruelty to arranged "social" marriages, to the downfall of those given to excess' and- as in this case, the arrogant apathy and incompetence of the legal system.
Here, the judges hearing the case are displayed in various states of disinterest and preoccupation , including two who are asleep or dozing.
The four judges have been identified as the Honourable William Noel; Sir John Willes, the Chief Justice, the heavyset judge in the centre (with pince-nez in the engraving); Henry, later Earl Bathurst, and later still Lord Chancellor; and Sir Edward Clive, who is dozing on Bathurst's shoulder. Heavyset Willes was famously known as a hanging judge – but was equally famed as a rake, and he is the main target for Hogarth's satire here.
The four heads above were added by the Hogarth later to support the statement below in order to counter criticisms of his own work, and remain incomplete. it is marked to the left of the title below the illustration "Designed & engraved by W. Hogarth": hen, to the right of the title -"Published as the Act directs"
The Act of Parliament referred to is the Engraving Copyright Act 1734. Many of Hogarth's earlier works had been reproduced in great numbers without his authority or any payment of royalties, and he was keen to protect his artistic property, so had encouraged his friends in Parliament to pass a law to protect the rights of engravers. Hogarth had been so instrumental in pushing the Bill through Parliament that on passing it became known as the "Hogarth Act""
Excellent condition. No visible foxing,staining or other flaws. Professional archival framing with double matting, within a simple narrow black frame. 19 1/2" X 14" framed.
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