Marriage à La Mode, Plate 6, "Death Scene Of The Vicount's Wife"

William Hogarth

English, 1697 - 1764

Richard Earlom

British, 1743 - 1822

Marriage à la Mode, Plate 6, "Death Scene of the Vicount's Wife", 1800

  • Not On View

Engraving on paper

Dimensions: 19 1/4 × 24 1/2 in. (48.9 × 62.2 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Mott, 1964.30

In this final moment of the unhappy couple's fate, nobody is safe from greed and betrayal. Now a Countess, the young woman has abandoned her handicapped child by committing suicide through poison, upon hearing that her lover had been sentenced to death for murdering her husband. Her son bears the marks of illness with both a black pock on his face and a leg braced due to a deformity. In this way, Hogarth suggests that vice is inherited and generational. Just as the young woman was first abandoned by her father, in the sense that he sacrificed her happiness to his selfish interests in social climbing, the young boy has been abandoned by his parents, whose poor choices have left him an orphan. The family's fortunes are also exposed by the ravenous dog, the bottle of laudanum lying empty on the floor, and the tipped chair, which repeats the theme of disorder. Having failed as a role model for his daughter and grandson, the merchant now slips the ring off his dying daughter's finger in stealth, perhaps in fear that debtors will claim it as part of the estate. With the close of this series, Hogarth has shown that that art serves two violently opposed purposes in the lives of its owners. It can either be acquired to denote wealth, which represents its potential to advance greed, or it can be used for good, such as by warning others about the dangers of modern life.

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