William Hogarth Marriage A La Mode The Set Of Engravings

William Hogarth
Marriage a la Mode
The Set of Six Engravings
Printed on wove paper laid to card.
47 by 39 cms. Average.
Heath Edition.

Technically more sophisticated than Hogarth’s other progresses, Marriage à la Mode was aimed at the upper middle class and the aristocracy, a smaller, more select audience than the artist usually addressed in this genre. The subject of his work, according to his advertisement, is the “Modern Occurrences in High-Life.” It tells the story of two young people ill-suited to each other who are forced into a marriage ordained to failure. Serving only the vanity and avarice of their parents, the union drives the couple to destroy each other and wreck their families.

Unlike most of Hogarth’s crowded scenes, this work scrutinizes five main characters, concentrating on the deterministic and increasingly desparate ways that the two protaganists develop in response to each other and their circumstances.

Though the series appears to be an attack on the cynical opportunities of both the middle class and the aristocracy, its exposure of the aristocracy is much more complete and harsh than its criticism of the artist’s own class. This bias is best revealed by the complete lack of sympathy with which young Squanderfield is portrayed. Effete and narcissistic from the beginning, he contrasts on a moral level with his middle-class wife, whose natural goodness is finally destroyed by his protracted neglect and repeated infidelity.