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Marriage A-la-Mode: 6, The Lady's Death
William Hogarth
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This is the final scene of Hogarth’s series of six paintings, Marriage A-la-Mode. The wretched Countess, dogged by the scandal following Silvertongue’s arrest, trial and sentence to death for the murder of her husband the Earl, has returned to her father’s house in the City of London.

On receiving news that Silvertongue has been hanged at Tyburn, the Countess has drunk laudanum; the bottle lies empty on the floor. An old nurse lifts the Countess’s child – deformed by congenital syphilis – to kiss her goodbye. The penny-pinching Alderman removes a ring from his daughter’s finger rather than offering comfort as she takes her final breaths.

The doctor wanders out behind the Alderman – there’s nothing more he can do. He appears to admire the whole row of fire buckets hanging on the wall in the hallway. The Alderman, unlike his dying daughter, never starts a fire he can't extinguish.

Key facts
Artist William Hogarth
Artist dates 1697 - 1764
Full title Marriage A-la-Mode: 6, The Lady's Death
Group 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 NG118
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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