Colloques & Conferences de l'Universite Lyon 2, "Rewriting / Reprising" - La reprise en litterature

Pictures within pictures in Marriage A-la-Mode by William Hogarth: their visual and symbolic resonance

andrea baron

Dernière modification: 2007-06-28


In the six paintings which compose the series Marriage A-la-Mode (1745), Hogarth fills the walls of his indoor scenes with old paintings, most of which are inspired by Italian Masters. In a first time this secondary corpus of paintings-within -paintings will be studied: are they copies from originals or pure inventions? The numerous commentators of Hogarth's works, either contemporaries of the painter or modern ones will help us in this task. Then, the meaning of these paintings-within-paintings will be assessed, both on the aesthetic and on the ethical levels, for they criticize the aristocratic taste for Italian art, and the popular taste for Flemish painters. Hogarth authoritatively defends a specifically English art. These paintings-within -paintings also make a moral and emblematic comment on the main scene. They ennoble the comic history and provide an elevated allegorical design. Yet, the question remains whether this iconographic analysis takes into account the painting as a whole. Are not paintings-within-paintings part and parcel of the composition, and do not they answer formal considerations? In what way do they contribute to the ''effect'' produced by the painting? Eventually, they may affect the reading of the moral scene, and also be taken as emergences of the contrapuntal eighteenth-century discourse on corporal and sensual pleasure.

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