John Wilkes Esqr.

John Wilkes Esqr.
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Hogarth’s unflattering portrait of his friend the radical politician John Wilkes (1727-97). The cross eyed, leering Wilkes sits, legs apart, in a carved chair, holding the Staff of Maintenance against his shoulder, on it a vessel simulating the Cap of Liberty. Hogarth has made style of his wig give the impression of Devil’s horns. On the table beside him are nos 17 and 45 of Wilkes’s radical broadsheet the North Briton. Wilkes had followed the publication of Hogarth’s print The Times, Plate One with a personal attack on the artist in the North Briton no 17. Never one to swallow an affront Hogarth, saw his chance of revenge when Wilkes was arrested following his attack on the King’s Speech on April 19th the following year. Wilkes was committed to the Tower, but eventually (to the great joy of the London mob) released by Lord Camden on May 6th. Hogarth had sketched Wilkes (who later recalled Hogarth ‘sculking behind a screen’) during the hearing in Westminster Hall. Wilkes was later to admit that he grew more like his portrait everyday.