An Early Lance
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). Daily cruelty to animals on the streets of London. A rich assortment of street urchins finding pleasure in tormenting animals by partially simply brute, partially more refined though simple means. In the centre Tom Nero doing his masterpiece, the torture of a dog Hogarth took from Callot’s Temptation of Saint Anthony. From which he cannot be kept by a boy of better descent and aptitude, supposedly the then 13-year-old George III. Meanwhile another boy anticipates the conclusion of Tom Nero’s development and sketches him on the wall as hanging on the gallows. Engraving. Inscribed: Design’d by W. Hogarth. / Published according to Act of Parliament Feb. 1. 1751. 15⅜ × 12¾ in (39 × 32.3 cm).
The Four Stages of Cruelty I. – With 12-lined caption in three verses by supposedly Rev. James Townley:
“ While various Scenes of sportive Woe / The Infant Race employ,
And tortur’d Victims bleeding shew / The Tyrant in the Boy.
Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart, / To spare the Creature’s pain
O take, he cries – take all ma Tart, / But Tears and Tart are vain.
Learn from this fair Examples – You / Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view / While Pity charms the sight. ”
The famous sujet by which Hogarth successfully tried to call the attention to the brutalization of the lower classes already laid to in the “pleasures” of the youth:
“ The four stages of cruelty were done in hopes of preventing in some degree that cruel treatment of poor Animals which makes the streets of London more disagreeable to the human mind than anything whatever, the very describing of which gives pain … ”
A purpose Hogarth by the way succeeded in and thus broke an early lance for the prevention of cruelty to animals:
“ … there is no part of my works of which I am so proud, and in which I feel so happy as in the series of the four Stages of Cruelty because I believe the publication of them has checked the diabolical spirit of barbarty, which, I am sorry to say was once so prevalent in this country … I had rather, if cruelty has been prevented by the four prints, be maker of them than of the (Raphael) cartoons, unless I lived in a Roman Catholic country ”.
In the figure of George III together a pun as “noble” stands for both “of noble birth” and “noble-minded”. Accordingly “Neronian” in a figurative sense “blood-thirsty, cruel” (Kunsthaus Zürich). And thus an acting earthly justice will finally bring Tom Nero, the arch-rogue of this set, first on the gallows, then into the anatomic theatre. The latter due to common prejudices of especially deterring effect.
Harmonic impression, perhaps from the complete edition published by Boydell 1790-1809. – Some backed small tears in the broad white and a tidemark in the upper left corner.
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– – The same. 15¼ × 12¾ in (38.7 × 32.3 cm). – Deep impression from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII , 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]).
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– – The same. Steel engraving. C. 1850. Inscribed. 5⅞ × 4⅝ in (15 × 11.7 cm).
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„ herzlichen Dank für Ihre Expertise zu dem (Hogarth-)Kupferstich. Er ist wohlbehalten angekommen. Besten Dank für die schnelle Zusendung. Gruss aus … “
(Herr F. B., 1. März 2013)