Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Rake's Progress, Part 4: Arrested for Debt

It may strike you as surprising to catch our favourite rake out and about in the light of day, but that is where we find Tom is this next edition. My guess is he is finally returning home after a night out. He exits his sedan chair to find out who has the audacity to prevent him from passing only to find it is two Welsh Bailiffs. Uh oh, this can't be good. It would appear that Tom's debts have finally caught up with him and now he must pay. To the debtor's prison with thee! But just as things are about to get messy, aid comes to Tom in a surprising form. Lowly milliner, Sarah Young, the very same pregnant, former-fiancee of Tom's happened to be walking by with her wares when she heard the commotion. Not being able to bare the thought of Tom rotting away in prison, she scraps together what little wagers of a single, working mother can, and pays the bailiffs for Tom's freedom. For some reason I feel this act of charity and compassion was wasted...but what do I know!

In the hustle and bustle of the London street it is easy to miss a few great Hogarthian details. A little dog calmly sits and watches the whole folly. Hogarth commonly added dogs to his paintings to symbolize the calm outside observer. During the commotion, a pickpocket snatches Tom's fancy cane. The lantern-lighter is refilling the oil in the street lamp and oops spills oil on Tom's nice white wig. Not only is this for comic relief but also is a reference to religious blessings (oil on the forehead) and how Sarah's act of charity was a blessing. A blessing soon to be forgotten, no doubt!

The Rake's Progress Part 1
The Rake's Progress Part 2
The Rake's Progress Part 3
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  1. Hey, is that Hampton Court in the background? If so, he's way out of the central London of his day.

  2. I was actually wondering the same thing!

  3. Heather, you can always find so many interesting details in these paintings! You have such a good eye!

  4. All the details are so interesting. I love this kind of painting that tells a story.

  5. It would be awesome if some animator decided to make a film in the Hogarth school. When I saw The Triplets of Belleville a few years back, I was impressed with how much more of art style the film had and less of the cookie-cutter animation, CGI look. Can you imagine a retelling of the Rake's Progress by someone like Tim Burton and a really witty writer?