Technique and condition

Hannah's portrait is painted in oil paint on plain-woven, linen canvas prepared with a grey, oil-based ground. The technique used for the painting is a fairly elaborate one, which was used to a greater or lesser extent by the Dutch and Flemish portrait painters who worked in England during the seventeenth century. Hogarth would have been familiar with it by looking at their work and perhaps also by reading contemporary manuals of painting in which it is described. After sketching in the pose, probably with chalk lines or very thin paint, he went on to the stage known as 'dead colouring'. For this he would have mixed up on the palette a range of opaque, muted colours relating to the various areas: low-key flesh tones made from lead white, red and yellow ochres, black and blue; three tones of pale yellow for the dress; a number of greyish browns for the background and original plain oval. Working these colours on the painting wet-in-wet, he would have established a solid image of the figure, the likeness and the surrounding space. Once this was dry, he was free to work up the painting as he needed, using mixtures containing brighter pigments, for example vermilion and lake in the flesh tones, or glazing over certain areas to deepen or enrich a colour. The whole of her dress was glazed over with a pigment, probably a yellow lake, that has since faded, leaving only a brownish layer of oil on top of the solid dead colouring. Close examination of the head reveals the dead colouring left visible to create the recessive areas of the face - the eye sockets, hairline and edges - in contrast to the brighter mixtures applied as a second layer to the cheeks, forehead and chin.

The type of ageing that has developed in the elaborate architectural surround indicates that the underlying plain oval had been completed and was fully dry when the painting was altered.

Selected further reading:
Rica Jones, 'The Artist's Training and Techniques', in Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, October to January 1987 - 1988, pp.19-28

Rica Jones
June 1997