Hogarth's Aesthetics

The Analysis of Beauty, Plate I
Title The Analysis of Beauty, Plate I
Artist William Hogarth
Date 1753
Medium Etching and engraving
Location The Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University

Two didactic plates illustrating Hogarth's theory were available to subscribers either as single sheet prints or to be sewn into copies of the Analysis. Despite his self-presentation as renegade aesthetician, in his Analysis and his illustrations, Hogarth ultimately reiterates the beauty and monumental status of familiar classical sculptures. Included are the Medici Venus (center), Apollo Belvedere (to the left of Venus), Laocoön (to the rear of Venus), Farnese Hercules (center foreground), and Antinous (to the right of Venus).

Hogarth mobilized these sculptures as exemplars of what he identified as the essence of beauty: the serpentine line. The articulation of this line is detailed in the figures flanking the central panel of the plate. Hogarth demonstrates this with such 'common' objects as women's corsets (figs. 1-7), of which fig. 4 is the epitome of beautiful and graceful linearity: "that sort of proportion'd, winding line, which will hereafter be call'd the precise serpentine line, or line of grace."

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