Art À La Mode


Marriage a la Mode, Plate IV


Title Marriage à la Mode,
Plate IV, Toilet Scene
Artist William Hogarth
Date 1745 (reprinted 1822)
Medium Etching and engraving
Location The Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University

Seated before her dressing table in her boudoir flirting with the lawyer Silvertongue, from Plate I, the Viscountess has clearly embarked on a life of adultery all her own. Both the presence of eccentric fops and dandies and Silvertongue's gesture to a screen depicting a masquerade suggest questionable or illicit sexual activity.

Above the Viscountess' head, Caravaggio's Lot's Daughters intoxicate their father in order to seduce him, while Correggio's Jupiter and Io show Io's rape by Zeus, who takes the form of a cloud. Finally, on the far right, the reference to homosexuality through Rembrandt's The Ganymede emphasizes the questionable erotics of the cluster of overtly feminine fops and the castrati seated below. Hanging above this painting, a portrait of Silvertongue erases any lingering possibility for the Viscountess' fidelity.

Colour prints of Marriage à la Mode are on display in the exhibition space. The prints were made by Thomas Cook after William Hogarth from 1796 to 1797 and are on loan from the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College.


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