Scandal is something that intrigues everyone. Whether it is because it is a rare occurrence or because we just enjoying hearing about other peoples’ lives, scandal piques nearly everyone’s’ interest. Usually the people that are involved in scandals are those in society who are role-models for others. A good scandal usually involves two people; as the saying goes, “it takes two to tango”. The artist William Hogarth seemed to enjoy portraying scandal, and Before and After are perfect examples of that theme.
In Before, it can be seen that the gentleman is trying to seduce the young lady. This image might not be considered scandalous. At first glance it just seems that the gentleman is being flirtatious. After further examination of the painting, I noticed the placement of his leg. The leg was placed between her legs and she is blushing. Her hand gestures make it seem like she is saying no, but she is not really trying to stop him. It is clear that what will happen next is something of a scandalous nature.
If the painting After could speak, it would scream “scandal”. Everything about this painting makes spectators want to turn away. For one, the man’s pants are not even pulled up all the way and the woman’s dress is not covering much. Second, their faces are flushed. It is obvious that they just had sexual intercourse. Her gestures have completely changed. Initially, she seemed hesitant to his advances, but her body language in After shows her wanting him to stay with her, in a somewhat clingy gesture.
Hogarth’s enjoyment of scandal can be seen through many other paintings as well. Many of Hogarth’s scandalous paintings were produced around the same time that the trial of Catherine Cadiére was occurring. Catherine was involved in a sex scandal that got the attention of many people. Catherine accused Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Girard of sexually abusing her, as well as using witchcraft. The accusations eventually led to a trial, which warped from sexual scandal into a persecution against all Jesuits. The people who supported Catherine believed that the Jesuits corrupted people and that her testimony was evidence to support their theory. Catherine eventually won the case and the people were happy.
We can relate Catherine’s case to Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress. In A Harlot’s Progress, a woman has just moved to London and eventually becomes a prostitute which eventually leads to her death. There are 6 paintings that tell the story but it is in the third painting that we can see the closest relation. There is a witch’s broom and hat hung on the prostitute’s wall.
It is obvious that Hogarth was very interested in scandals. He was also very interested in women as they are the main focus in most of his paintings. It cannot be proven that he was inspired by Catherine Cadiére sex scandal, but since Catherine’s case was the biggest thing around at the time, I believe there could be a connection.
“Carnal Quietism”: Embodying Anti-Jesuit Polemics in the Catherine Cadiere Affair, 1731. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Internet resource.
Stephens, Frederick George. Catalouge of Political and Personal Satires, Volume III, part I. London: British Museum Publications, Ltd., 1978