William Hogarth, Charles Mosley

O the Roast Beef of Old England (‘The Gate of Calais’)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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William Hogarth 1697–1764
Charles Mosley 1744–c.1770
Etching and engraving on paper
Image: 432 × 569 mm
Presented by Mrs M.L. Hemphill 1984

Display caption

This was an expensive print at five shillings, elements of which were later used in the Napoleonic wars for army recruitment posters. Much of this influential image ridicules Catholicism. The fisherwomen wearing crucifixes on the left seem to pray to the cheap flat fish in front of them. In the background, through the gate, 'superstitious' locals are kneeling before the Cross, beneath a tavern sign of a dove, symbol of the Holy Ghost, in Hogarth's mockery of the Eucharist. More earthly nourishment, however, comes in the form of the unattainable sirloin of British beef. Hogarth's contempt for the French should be set against his enormous debt to French art and design, evident in much of his work.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

William Hogarth 1697-1764 and Charles Mosley active 1744, d. c.1770

T03918 O The Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais') 1749

Etching and engraving 346 x 440 (13 5/8 x 17 5/16) on paper 432 x 569 (17 x 22 3/8); plate-mark 383 x 457 (15 1/16 x 18)
Etched inscriptions: 'For Madm. | Grandsire | at Calais' on label under piece of beef, and 'Grand | Monarch | P' on the cuff of the sentinel on the left. Engraved inscriptions: 'Painted by W. Hogarth Engrav'd by C. Mosley & W. Hogarth. | O THE ROASTBEEF OF OLD ENGLAND, & C | Publish'd according to Act of Parliament March 6th. 1749' below image
Presented by Mrs M.L. Hemphill 1984
Prov: ...; Mrs M.L. Hemphill by 1984
Lit: J. Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 1782, pp.42-3, 235-41; 1785 ed., pp.49-50, 289-95; J. Nichols and G. Steevens, The Genuine Works of William Hogarth, I, 1808, pp.148-54, II, 1810, p.190, III, 1817, p.251; 'Vertue Note Books', VI, Walpole Society, vol.30, 1955, p.200; R. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, New Haven and London 1970, I, pp.202-4, no.180, II, pl.192; R. Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, New Haven and London 1971, II, pp.77-8, 432 n.23

Engraved after the original painting of 1748 in the Tate Gallery (N01464). The subject is not reversed in the print, which differs from the painting chiefly through the absence of the crow on the cross atop the gate. Hogarth added it to the painting after the print was published, reputedly to hide a damage to the canvas. Additions seen only in the engraving, on the other hand, are the printed words on the ruffles of the sentinel on the left, to show that they are made of paper.

The print was announced in The London Evening Post, 7-9 March and in The Daily Advertiser, 8 March 1749, as published 'This Day' for the price of 5s. and 'representing a PRODIGY which lately appear'd before the Gate of CALAIS'. Mosley is not mentioned as a collaborator in the advertisement, only on the print itself. George Vertue commented on the appearance of the print (on what must have been a hand-coloured version) by voicing a somewhat unreasonable objection to the fact that a piece of raw beef is shown, 'colour'd only red & yellow in the Middle of the print', instead of the roast of the title.

Hogarth's friend Theodosius Forrest wrote a 'cantata' based on the subject of the painting which may have been sung at public performances. It was published by Robert Sayer at the Golden Buck in Fleet Street (i.e. sometime before he began publishing from 53 Fleet Street in 1752), with a small copy of the print at the top of the sheet (for the full text see Nichols 1782, pp.237-41, and Nichols & Steevens I 1808, pp.148-54). The cadaverous sentinel on the left and the ragged soldier spilling his soup were used as models for figures in recruiting posters, juxtaposed with well-fed British soldiers; Hogarth's self-portrait in the left background was repeatedly used for later publications related to the artist (for a full list see Paulson 1970).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.70-1

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