William Hogarth

Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester


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William Hogarth 1697–1764
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1273 × 1015 mm
frame: 1910 × 1414 × 115 mm
Purchased 1910

Display caption

Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761) is shown here in the robes of Bishop of Winchester and Prelate of the Order of the Garter, one of the top three dignitaries of the Anglican Church. He was famous for defending the new Hanoverian monarchy against the claims to the British throne of the Catholic Stuarts. He was also noted for supporting the supremacy of the state over the church, and for his liberal views on religious dogma. Although crippled from youth, he led an extremely active life. He loved the arts, especially the theatre, and entertained lavishly. Hogarth, who was a close friend of his two sons, painted most members of the family and often took part in their amateur theatricals.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

N02736 Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester 1741

Oil on canvas 1273×1015 (50 1/8×39 15/16)
Inscribed ‘W. Hogarth Pinx 1741’ along back of chair
Purchased by the National Gallery (National Loan Exhibitions Fund) 1910; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1919
PROVENANCE ...; Lt Col. White, from whom bt by the National Gallery
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1971 (118, repr. in col. p.34)
ENGRAVED 1. Line engraving by Bernard Baron, pub. July 1743, unreversed, repr. Paulson 1971, I, fig.164a 2. Line engraving by W.P. Sherlock, pub. 1759, of head only, reversed 3. Line engraving by Thomas Cook c. 1800, unreversed copy of 1743 engraving by Baron (see no.118)
LITERATURE John Hoadly (ed.), The Works of Bishop Hoadly, 1773, I, ‘Preface’ for biographical details; DNB 1908, XI (for Hoadly); Beckett 1949, p.52, pl.134; R. Wark, ‘Two Portraits by Hogarth’, Burlington Magazine, XCIX, 1957, pp. 344–7, fig.24; J.L. Nevinson, ‘Portrait of Bishop Hoadly’, Burlington Magazine, c, 1958, p.26; Antal 1962, pp.22, 28, 40, 46, 118, 218 n.15, 223 n.99, 245 n.48, pl.77a; Paulson 1970, I, p.266 no.226, II, pl.266; Baldini & Mandel 1967, p.106, no.146, repr., pl. XXXIV (col.); Paulson 1971, I, pp.441–5, 448, 454, pl.164b, II, 25; H. Omberg, William Hogarth's Portrait of Thomas Coram, 1974, pp.113, 127–35, 139 n.4, 160 n.26, 161 nn.29–35, 41, 43, 45–6, 165 nn.48, 52, 54, 57, 61, pls.40, 41 (detail); Kerslake 1977, I, pp.141–2, II, pl.387; Webster 1979, pp.94, 95, repr. p.99 (col.), p.185, no.133, repr.; Bindman 1981, pp.130–1, fig.100 (col.); J. Ingamells, The English Episcopal Portrait 1559–1835, 1981, pp.224–5, ill. 132 G

Benjamin Hoadly (1676–1761) is shown here in the full dignity of the office of Bishop of Winchester, to which he had been appointed in 1734, and as Prelate of the Order of the Garter, in which he was affirmed in 1738. His hand, apparently raised in blessing, is seen against the background of a leather-bound tome which is untitled, but may allude to his published sermons. Behind him is a stained glass window with the figure of St Paul (a reference to his strongly Pauline theology) on the left, and a crowned angel holding the arms of the see of Winchester on the right. Below this is another shield, probably meant to represent the royal coat of arms.

Hoadly was one of the most influential Low Churchmen of his day and his writings were regarded as a model of national piety well into the nineteenth century. His unswerving loyalty to the Whig and Hanoverian causes led to his rapid rise in the Church hierarchy, from Royal Chaplain in 1714, to Bishop of Bangor in 1715, of Hereford in 1721, Salisbury in 1723, and to Winchester, one of the wealthiest sees in England, in 1734. The last two appointments carried with them first the Chancellorship and then the Prelacy of the Order of the Garter. He was favoured at court and was a personal friend of Lord Hervey of Ickworth. Although his strongly argued latitudinarian view aroused much opposition and controversy, he had few personal enemies. In spite of his poor health - he was crippled from his student days at Cambridge and obliged to walk with sticks and to preach from a kneeling position - his household was a lively one. Worldly and amiable, he entertained lavishly and enjoyed the material benefits of his position, ensuring that his sons Benjamin (1706–57) and John (1711–76) benefited from them also. His first wife Sarah Curtis (died 1743) was until her marriage in 1701 a professional portrait painter, and it is possible that Hogarth's intimacy with the Hoadly family had its origins in her contacts with the artistic community. Hogarth painted portraits of all the Hoadlys and their wives, in some cases more than once. John composed the verses to the prints of ‘The Rake's Progress’ in 1736, and Benjamin is said to have helped him with The Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753. All members of this circle were passionately fond of the theatre, and Hogarth is known to have participated in their amateur theatricals. It has also been demonstrated (Paulson 1971, Omberg 1974) that Hoadly's theological views, which put virtuous moral conduct above unconditional faith, had some bearing on Hogarth's choice of subjects, particularly in his attempts at history painting, and most notably in the case of his ‘Paul Before Felix’ at Lincoln's Inn.

Painted only one year after the great ‘Thomas Coram’ of the Foundling Hospital, this portrait is a splendid example of the artist's mature style. As it is Hoadly's left hand that is raised in blessing, the composition seems to have been initially planned with reversal for engraving in mind. The Garter badge on the shoulder, however, is the right way round (i.e. the buckle is to the left of bottom centre) and would have had to be adjusted for reversal, as would the Garter pendant, on which the motto ‘HONI SOIT QVI MAL Y PENSE’ is legible and correctly inscribed. In the event, Baron's engraving of 1743 does not reverse the composition, although in attempting to make the motto on the shoulder badge clearer (in the painting it is impressionistically illegible) he achieves the curious result that in the print the lettering is not only back to front, but runs from the wrong end of the ribbon (it should start from the buckle on the left), with the legible words placed in a part of the circlet where they could not possibly be, given the length of the rest of the inscription. Earlier suggestions (Wark 1957) that the print pre-dates the painting must be discounted since the discovery of the date on the painting.

Much has been written about the correct position of the Garter badge on the cloak. This problem was elucidated by Nevinson (1958), who pointed out that Chancellors and Prelates of the Order generally wore it on their right shoulder (i.e. as correctly shown in this painting), while Knights wore theirs on the left. In practice this was either not strictly adhered to, or else was the source of endless confusion through copies and reversals: a cursory glance through relevant portraits of the last three centuries will show that the badge appears on either shoulder in about equal proportions. This fact makes the question of whether the badge is on the right or wrong shoulder in the small autograph full-length of the Bishop at the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California, less of an issue, although the buckle on the circlet is on the wrong side in what appears to be an adaptation of the Tate Gallery composition in reverse. Webster (1979) plausibly argues a later date of c. 1745 for this smaller version on the grounds that it and its female pendant (also in the Huntington Art Gallery) may have been painted to commemorate the Bishop's second marriage to Mary Newey in 1745. Wark (1957) had seen the female portrait as an early work, representing Hoadly's first wife Mary Curtis, who, however, would have been around sixty in 1740 and thus too old to be the sitter represented there. It is possible, however, that the female portrait is slightly earlier than that of the Bishop, and that Hogarth merely reversed his large composition to make a visually more satisfying pendant to it, disregarding the fact that it left the Garter badge technically on the wrong shoulder.

The painting's early provenance is so far unknown, but it may have descended through the White family, which was distantly related to the Hoadlys. It has a fine contemporary frame incorporating a Bishop's mitre, with palm fronds on the top and croziers at the sides.

Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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