Marriage à-la-mode: 4. The Toilette

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Marriage à-la-mode: 4. The Toilette
William Hogarth 042.jpg
Artist William Hogarth
Year 1743
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 69.9 cm × 90.8 cm (27.5 in × 35.7 in)
Location National Gallery, London

The Toilette is the fourth canvas in the series of six satirical paintings known as Marriage à-la-mode painted by William Hogarth.

The old Earl has died and the son is now the new Earl and his wife, the Countess. As was the very height of fashion at the time, the Countess is holding a "Toilette", or reception, in her bedroom.

Commentary[edit]

  • The coronet over the bed and over the dressing table mirror indicate that the old Earl has died and the son is now Earl Squanderfield. The wife is now Countess Squanderfield.
  • The lawyer Silvertongue is lounging on the sofa, with his shoes off and his feet up. He clearly feels at home and in familiar surroundings.
  • Although there are other guests in the room, the Countess has her back to them, totally absorbed by Silvertongue.
  • Silvertongue is making an assignation with the Countess, showing her a ticket to a masquerade and pointing to a painting of a masquerade on a screen behind the sofa. The intention being that, as the guests will be wearing masks and therefore unidentifiable, the Countess and Silvertongue can safely attend together.
  • The Countess is now a mother as, hanging on the back of her chair, is a rope of coral, used by teething children. However, the child is not in the picture, suggesting a lack of maternal instinct.
  • The book on the sofa by Silvertongue's feet is The Sofa, the licentious and popular novel by Crébillon
  • A Swiss valet-de-chambre is attending to the Countess's hair.
  • On the left there is an opera singer, based upon either Giovanni Carestini or possibly Farinelli, both celebrated Italian castrato opera singers.
  • The flutist is based upon Weideman, a well known flutist of the time and music-teacher to George III.
  • The gentleman in Blue has curl papers in his hair. He is based upon Herr Michel, the Prussian Envoy.
  • The lady in white is overcome by music and singing. She is based upon Mrs Lane-Fox, later Lady Bingley, who was known to have a passion for Italian music.
  • The two Old Master paintings on the right wall show Lot and his Daughters, a Biblical reference to incest, and Jupiter and Io (after Correggio), a mythological reference to seduction.
  • The lower picture on the left wall is another Old Master, Rape of Ganymede (after Michelangelo), a mythological reference to homosexual seduction.
  • The upper left painting is the lawyer himself, Silvertongue. Clearly, the new Earl has not visited his wife's bedroom for a long time.
  • The black page boy in the bottom right corner is examining a collection of hideous ornaments (similar to those on the mantelpiece in the second painting), purchased at the sale of Timothy Babyhouse, Esquire. He points to the horns on a statue of Actaeon, with an impish grin: he knows what the lady of the house has been up to (horns are a symbol of cuckoldry).
  • Scattered on the floor on the left are a number of invitations: "Lady Squader's company is desired at Lady Townly's drum next Monday;" "Lady Squander's company is desired at Lady Heatham's drum-major next Sunday" and "Lady Squander's company is desired at Miss Hairbrain's rout," (Hogarth making a joke with the sequence "drum," "drum-major" and "rout"). There is also a note, "Count Basset begs to no how Lade Squander sleapt last nit."

See also[edit]

Other paintings in the Marriage à-la-mode series[edit]

External links[edit]