William Hogarth, Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse

Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse, 1758-64

William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)

RA Collection: Art

Final state of William Hogarth's engraving reproducing his last self portrait, Self-Portrait of William Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse (1757-8, National Portrait Gallery, London). The engraving elaborates on the painting by including a paint pot (lower left) and a copy of Hogarth's treatise The Analysis of Beauty (lower right).

As Elizabeth Einberg and Ronald Paulson both note, the portrait was published in order to replace the earlier Self-portrait with Pug as frontispiece to bound volumes of his prints (this particular impression is at the beginning of a volume alongside an earlier state of the print and an impression of Self-portrait with Pug.

Over a period of several years Hogarth put the print through seven states, of which this is the last. The title, which originally recorded the artist's new title of Serjant Painter to the King, granted in 1757, has been simplified in the final state to 'William Hogarth 1764'. The most striking change to the image in later states is to the mask held by the figure of Comedy which the artist sketches on an easel. In early states, as in the painting, the mask is conventional, but in this final state the mask has horns and the expression of a satyr. Paulson explains this as follows: 'this is another of the pessimistic revisions of Hogarth's last year: Comedy's only mask now is the satyr's, such as Hogarth feels he had to assume when he drew the Times prints'. A less noticeable change is from the slight smile on the painter's face in early states to the pugnacious frown in the final state.

Object details

Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
Object type
Place of Publication

372 mm x 341 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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