History : Sep-Oct 2016
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 75 VANITIES AND VICES Frivolity in the Dressing Room omen from the moneyed classes in London would often socialize during “the toilette”—a French custom adopted by members of the city's elite, in which a lady would receive visitors while she was dressing. Here, Hogarth satirizes the superficiality and vanity of the rich in a city awash with foreign goods and customs. The guests include 1 an Italian castrato who sings while accompanied by a flautist, 2 a French dancing master, and 3 a woman moved by the performance as a servant offers her hot chocolate. The hostess, 4 a recently married countess, sits in front of the mirror while a French hairdresser crimps her hair and 5 her lover woos her. Debauchery in a Gentlemen’s Club ccording to a French traveler, a gentleman in 18th- century London did not tire himself out with work. He rose late in the morning to breakfast, had dinner at five, and went to a tavern or drinking club in the evening. The surrender of the professional classes to debauchery is satirized here by Hogarth, who shows 1 a drunk politician about to be burned with a candle, 2 a smoking lawyer serving punch, and 3 a fop who looks as if he is about to be sick. Wearing a red coat, 4 an army veteran falls off his chair, after failing to clink glasses with 5 the legless doctor. The clock 6 reads four o'clock in the morning, meaning that they have all been carousing for hours. Empty bottles littering 7 the floor testify to the excesses of the session . . . to be repeated, perhaps, the next night. A MID-18TH-CENTURY PENDANT MADE OF PINK DIAMONDS AND ENAMELED PEARLS. BLOOM & SON, LONDON 18TH-CENTURY ENGRAVED SILVER TANKARD NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD 4 5 5 7 6 BRIDGEMAN/ACIBRIDGEMAN/ACIBRIDGEMAN/ACIBRIDGEMAN/ACI Artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) was an unflinching chronicler of his native London. His work offered an acerbic commentary on both the grim conditions of the city's poor and, as shown here, the excesses and vanity of its idle rich.