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This portrait was probably begun to mark the marriage of Hogarth’s friend Ashley Cowper to Dorothy Oakes in about 1730. Their marriage is referred to through the priestly figure officiating at an altar on the urn behind them, and by the Latin inscription on the pedestal by the poet Virgil. Here, Gallus, a pilgrim in Arcadia, states how he would willingly give up hunting with his hounds in order to be with his beloved shepherdess. Likewise, Cowper turns away from his favourite dog towards his new wife.The child is probably the couple’s eldest daughter, Theodora, who was added to the picture at a later date.

May 2007