The Marriage a la Mode series (Marriage a la Mode 1 The Marriage Settlement, Marriage a la Mode 2 The Tete a Tete, Marriage a la Mode 3 The Inspection, Marriage a la Mode 4 The Toilette, Marriage a la Mode 5 The Bagnio, Marriage a la Mode 6 The Lady's Death) by Hogarth, to which this painting belongs, illustrates the dramatic course of a marriage made out of interest in a satirical tone. In this scene we see the husband and wife in the drawing room of their home, perhaps inspired by the London residence of Horace Walpole, beginning a new day. The husband is slumped on a chair after a night of carousal, while the wife is stretching her limbs on the other side of the table. The representation is rich in details that describe the scene with precision: the steward leaving the room with the household account book under his arm is clutching a pile of bills, only one of which has been paid. As is often the case in Hogarth's work, the gestures are studied with attention, in a manner that he may have assimilated from theatrical performances. Nor does the artist let slip the chance to make fun of the over elaborate style of decoration then in vogue, by placing a clock dripping with fish in the right-hand corner of the picture.
The sale of the paintings in this series is a telling example of how the art market functioned in 18th-century England. The following advertisement appeared in the London Daily Post and Advertiser on April 2, 1743: "Mr. Hogarth intends to publish by subscription, six prints from copper-plates after his own paintings LI representing a variety of modern occurrences in high-life and called Marriage a la Mode. " On April 19, 1745, the same newspaper carried the information that the six oil paintings were visible at the painter's house and could be purchased as soon as the engravings were ready, which they would be by the end of the year. Other series of engravings were published by the artist and sold to the public by subscription through advertisements in newspapers, and the success of these ventures shows just how bourgeois British society had become with respect to the rest of Europe. It can be explained by the existence of a larger middle class than elsewhere, already accustomed to the caricatures, cartoons and satirical scenes carried by publications like The Tatleror The Spectator.
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