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Marriage A-la-Mode: 5, The Bagnio
William Hogarth
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This is the fifth scene of Hogarth’s series of six paintings titled Marriage A-la-Mode. After the masquerade, the Countess and her lover Silvertongue have taken a room above the Turk’s Head – a Turkish baths, or Bagnio. The scene is set at night by firelight; the Countess’s hooped underskirt, whalebone corset, fashionable shoes and mask have been discarded on the floor beside the rumpled four-poster bed.

The Earl has burst into the room and been fatally stabbed by Silvertongue, who now flees in his nightshirt out of the open window. The Countess falls to her knees before her husband and begs for his mercy, two tears glistening on her cheek. As death overcomes the Earl, the syphilitic black spot on his neck is as conspicuous as ever. The proprietor of the Turk’s Head bursts in to investigate the cause of the commotion. He has summoned a constable who carries his staff of office and a night watchman with his lantern held aloft.

Key facts
Artist William Hogarth
Artist dates 1697 - 1764
Full title Marriage A-la-Mode: 5, The Bagnio
Group Marriage A-la-Mode
Date made about 1743
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 70.5 x 90.8 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG117
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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