Marriage à La Mode, Plate 3, "Viscount With His Paramour Consulting An Empiric"

William Hogarth

English, 1697 - 1764

Richard Earlom

British, 1743 - 1822

Marriage à la Mode, Plate 3, "Viscount with His Paramour Consulting an Empiric", 1798

  • Not On View

Engraving on paper

Dimensions: 18 1/2 × 23 3/4 in. (47 × 60.3 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Mott, 1964.27

This scene offers viewers greater confirmation of the debauchery taking place in the Viscount's spare time. He seeks treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, most likely syphilis, to which he has exposed his young mistress. Both the Viscount and his mistress hold pillboxes with possibly mercury tablets (a known remedy). The fact that the older woman also bears the marks of the disease might suggest that the Viscount took her for his mistress first, and she, enamored with his noble status, failed to protect her daughter from his insatiable sexual appetite. Also pointing to unnatural desires, the skeleton molesting the model, both housed in the cupboard, serve as an omen of death for all involved. The skeleton, model, and wigged head mirror the trio of death manifested in the Viscount, his mistress, and her mother. Like the skeleton, his fate has been sealed, while the model's fearful expression vicariously expresses the terror that the young mistress should feel in this situation. The only suggestion of morality in this scene is the skull on the table, having often been employed in still-life scenes as a memento mori or reminder of death. Greed is represented in the physician's inclusion, who might be better described as a quack than a doctor. His toothless visage and watery eyes demonstrate that he is likely not able to take care of his patients any better than he looks after himself.

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