The Bench

The Bench
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William Hogarth
The Bench.
London, Jane Hogarth c. 1775
Copper engraving
Narrow margins.
Hogarth’s caricature of legal corruption. The top rank shows a row of grotesquely caricatured heads, and beneath them is a row of judges. The central figure, flanked on the right by two sleeping justices and on the left by a judge reading a letter from his mistress, is the enormously bloated figure of Sir John Willes, Chief Justice, flanked on either side by two sleeping judges. 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. Paulson 205 V/VI.