Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Marriage a la Mode, Part 5: The Bagnio

When we last left off, our Lady was in her toilette among "friends," contemplating the idea of going to a masked soirée. We now happen upon the couple together again...but in much darker circumstances. It appears that the Countess did take the lawyer, Silvertongue up on his offer of going to the masquerade, judging by the mask on the floor by the window. It also appears that she didn't return home after the party. The Countess and Silvertongue have checked into The Turk's Head, a bagnio that actually existed in Hogath's time. Bagnios were no-questions-asked hotels; similar to roadside motels today. Apparently our favorite Pete Doherty-like Earl somehow discovered his wife's infidelities and followed her to the bagnio where he discovered her in bed with Silvertongue. Her panniers and masks are strew about near the bed; the adulterous couple were obviously in a rush to consummate their lust. When the Earl discovered them, a fight broke out and swords were drawn. But unfortunately for our hero, he spent more of his spoiled life gambling and womanizing than fencing and has lost with a fatal wound to the heart. Seeing what he has done, Silvertongue immediately drops his bloody sword and escapes out the window in his nightdress. It is at this fatal moment that the Countess falls on her knees and cries out for forgiveness for her wicked ways. The master of the house bursts in after hearing the commotion and sees the scene before us.

The background does not contain as many hints as with the previous paintings in the series. Instead, it implies more hindsight than foresight. The tapestry covering the wall depicts the Judgment of Solomon in which Solomon decrees a baby should be split in two to appease two mothers claiming the baby was theirs. This story is reference to the couple's destruction of each other for their own selfish pleasures. Hogarth adds his own style of humor by placing a 3/4th length portrait of a prostitute over a figure in the tapestry so only the legs show. The masks on the floor take on the appearance of skulls to simulate doom and death. The mirror behind the Earl refers to the first painting in the series where the madness begins, and the Earl can only be occupied looking at himself in a mirror. Will the couple learn from the culmination of their errors and find happiness in one another? Or is the Countess' plea for forgiveness too late?

Next, Part 6 >>

Marriage a la Mode Part 1
Marriage a la Mode Part 2
Marriage a la Mode Part 3
Marriage a la Mode Part 4


  1. Although you wrote this blog a number of years ago, I have just come across it whilst I was in the middle of reviewing Hogarth's set of paintings for my blog.

    I have put a link to your excellent blog on my blogsite

  2. Thank you Jonathan! I'm glad you found me!