Feel Art Again: "An Election Entertainment"

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Today is election day, so let's celebrate with some election humor, in the form of William Hogarth's 1754 painting, "An Election Entertainment." This complex painting, part one of a four-part series, has more than a few interesting bits!

1. Depicting a Whig election banquet in the fictional British town of "Guzzledown," the painting contains two Whig candidates at the left side of the table, under the flag bearing the Whig motto of "Liberty and Loyalty."

2. One Whig candidate, nicknamed "Sir Commodity Taxem," has had his ring stolen by a little girl, while a reveler with a pipe is burning his hair. The other candidate is being assaulted by two drunks.

3. The black banner on the floor reads "Give us back our 11 days," a reference to Britain's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. To adjust to the calendar, Wednesday, September 3 was followed by Thursday, September 14, which left workers feeling as though they had been cheated out of 11 days of wages.

4. At least 3 men are injured in the painting: a soldier whose comrade is filling his head wound with gin; a man who has been struck by a brick thrown through the window; and the Lord Mayor, who has passed out after eating too many oysters and is now being bled by a physician.

5. Several of William Hogarth's earlier series were widely popular, and thus they were often pirated. The Copyright Act of 1735 came about, in part, as a result of Hogarth's campaign against the profiteers.

6. Hogarth's father ran an unsuccessful Latin-speaking coffee house and, while Hogarth was still young, was imprisoned for five years in Fleet Prison for debt; William Hogarth never discussed his father's imprisonment.

[A large copy of "An Election Entertainment" is available in the Web Gallery of Art.]

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.