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Marriage A-la-Mode: 1, The Marriage Settlement
William Hogarth
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This is the first in Hogarth’s series of six paintings titled Marriage A-la-Mode. They were painted to be engraved and then sold after the engravings were finished.

The Earl of Squander is negotiating the marriage of his son to the daughter of a rich Alderman of the City of London. The Alderman’s family will acquire an aristocratic title through the marriage; the Earl will get his hands on ready cash, which has already been emptied out from the money bags onto the table.

The Earl’s son and Alderman’s daughter have no interest in each other or the marriage. A foxhound and bitch, chained together round the neck, anticipate the bonds of matrimony that will soon tie them together. The large black spot on the groom’s neck and his fashionable French dress suggest he has picked up syphilis, known as the French disease, on his travels.

Key facts
Artist William Hogarth
Artist dates 1697 - 1764
Full title Marriage A-la-Mode: 1, The Marriage Settlement
Series Marriage A-la-Mode
Date made about 1743
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 69.9 x 90.8 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG113
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Marriage A-la-Mode

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For centuries, the English have been fascinated by the sexual exploits and squalid greed of the aristocracy, and these are the subjects of the six-part series Marriage A-la-Mode, which illustrates the disastrous consequences of marrying for money rather than love. The basic story is of a marriage arranged by two self-seeking fathers – a spendthrift nobleman who needs cash and a wealthy City of London merchant who wants to buy into the aristocracy. It was Hogarth’s first moralising series satirising the upper classes.

The six pictures were painted in about 1743 to be engraved and then offered for sale after the engravings were finished. The engravings are uncoloured, reversed versions of the paintings. Published in 1745, the engravings were offered to subscribers at a guinea a set. They proved instantly popular and gave Hogarth’s work a wide audience. The paintings were offered for sale by twelve noon on 6 June 1751, but only attracted two bidders, one of whom bought them all for £126.

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