J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Hogarth Begging for Another Look

Last month the Print Shop Window reported on a new expert ruling about a painting attributed to William Hogarth in the collection of the National Gallery of Art. (Ours, not Britain’s.)

The website’s story, cleverly titled “The Fake’s Progress,” stated:
The painting, which was originally believed to be one of five versions of A Scene from the Beggar’s Opera that Hogarth painted sometime during the late 1720s, will be offically ‘outed’ as a forgery in a catalogue raisonné due to be published by the Paul Mellon Centre next month. Elizabeth Einberg, the British Hogarth expert responsible compiling the book, concluded that “The touch, the colour… the handling of the paint is not simply not the same” as that of a true Hogarth.

Professor Robin Simon, author of Hogarth, France and British Art, alerted Einberg to the possibility of the work being a forgery after making close comparisons between the Washington painting and those known to be by Hogarth. He concluded that “Hogarth was incredibly careful to make sure you could recognise… individual actors [and their] roles in each of the four versions…. In the Washington picture you can’t make out anybody’s individual features.”
The American collector Paul Mellon bought the painting and donated it to the gallery in 1983, sixteen years before his death. That’s the same Paul Mellon who endowed the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art at Yale University, the publisher of the book that downgrades this painting. But Mellon was enough of a scholar to be pleased by the accumulation of knowledge.

You can compare the National Gallery’s painting (shown above and zoomable through this link) with this undoubted Hogarth from the Tate Gallery in London:

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