The Battle of the Pictures

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The Battle of the Pictures
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William Hogarth

The Battle of the Pictures

London, Baldwin Craddock & Joy 1822

Copper engraving

195 x 210mm


This engraving was intended as a bidder’s ticket for Hogarth’s auction of nineteen of his paintings including A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress, The Four Times of the Day and Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn. The sale was not a great success, netting Hogarth only £427.7s, a result that Hogarth seems to pessimistically anticipate in this satire. The building on the left is the auction rooms of a dealer in ‘dark’ pictures; the cock on the weathervane indicating that this is the premises of Christopher Cock, an old bugbear of Hogarth’s. Drawn up before’s Cock’s door are ranks of profitable ‘Old Masters’ with at the front an example of The Flaying of Marsyas and The Rape of Europa, behind them the paintings are labelled Ditto, implying that they are all similar copies. On the right is Hogarth’s studio with plate 2 from the Rake’s Progress standing on the easel while on either side the paintings fly out to embark on a fight to the death. Unfortunately, Cock’s old masters and fakes seem to winning through sheer weight of numbers; a St Francis has pierced the prude in Morning, a St Mary Magdalene punctures plate three of the Harlot, a scene of Feasting Gods demolishes Midnight Modern Conversation etc. Hogarth’s favourite complaint was that the art buying public preferred these old fashioned, classical, foreign paintings to the work of ‘modern’ British artists like himself. Paulson 157 only state