The Bench

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The Bench
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William Hogarth
The Bench.
London, J. & J. Boydell ca. 1805
Copper engraving
310 x 215mm
Hogarth’s caricature of legal corruption. The central figure is the enormously bloated figure of Sir John Willes, Chief Justice, flanked on either side by two sleeping judges and a bespectacled colleague surreptitiously reading a (love ?) letter. Above them is the Royal Escutcheon partially obscured behind a curtain. A political turncoat, Willes was a man whose intelligence and learning were dimmed by his reputation for immorality (he is also Hogarth’s model for the seducer in Before and After). He was thought to have fathered 26 illegitimate children and George III subsequently refused him both the Chancellorship and a peerage on moral grounds.