William Hogarth, A Rake's Progress, plate 4

A Rake's Progress, plate 4, 1735

William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)

RA Collection: Art

Plate four of William Hogarth's set of eight engravings A Rake's Progress. As for many of Hogarth's best-known engravings, the set was based on preexisting paintings by the printmaker, painted in 1734 and now in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. The image is reversed from the painting.

The set, made as a sequel to Hogarth's Harlot's Progress, was the artist's second 'modern moral subject'. It tells the story of a young man of modest means, Tom Rakewell, coming into an inheritance and entering fashionable London life before succumbing to financial ruin and madness. This plate shows Tom, by now deep in debt despite his appearance, stopped by bailiffs as a sedan chair carries him towards St James' Palace. Tom's former lover Sarah Young (depicted in plate 1, 17/3785) chances upon the scene and offers her purse in an attempt to secure Tom's release.

This impression is from the first state of the plate. The most obvious difference from the later states is in the sky: here it is clear, as in the source painting, but in later states it becomes stormy, with a jagged bolt of lightning aimed at the palace.

Object details

A Rake's Progress, plate 4
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
Object type
Place of Publication

317 mm x 387 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Hogarth's prints. Vol. I. - [s.l.]: [n.d.]

Click here to view the book

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