Hogarth gambling scene from Rake’s Progress


William Hogarth. “Gold, thou bright son of Phoebus.” London: John Stockdale, Piccadilly & John Walker and G. Robinson, Paternoster Row, 1812.  Plate six from A Rake’s Progress. 12 1/x x 15 1/4. Re-engraving by Thomas Cook. Very good condition.


A wonderful scene of gambling in eighteenth century England by William Hogarth.  Hogarth (1697-1764) is considered by many to be the greatest English caricaturist of all time. He was an perceptive observer and his illustrations of the social and political conduct of his day are fascinating historical documents and humorous depictions of human foibles, which have remained much the same over the last two centuries. Hogarth was a painter of considerable accomplishment, but it is for his remarkable prints that he is best known.

The popularity of Hogarth’s prints led to the publication, in 1795, of a complete set of Hogarth’s images “faithfully copied from his finished proofs, by T[homas] Cook.  This print comes from an early nineteenth century reissue of that work.  It is from the series, A Rake’s Progress, in which Hogarth presented a complex critique of social climbing and classes in British society.  Tom Rakewell, a young middle-class man with aristocratic ambitions, embarks on a life of leisure and dissipation.  In this image, Tom is so completely absorbed in the aristocratic pastime of gambling that he and his comrades fail to notice that the building is slowly burning around them – a pointed foreshadowing of the rake’s end.