Francis Le Piper

Hudibras’s Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington

Not on display

Francis Le Piper ?1640–1695
Oil paint on wood
Support: 232 × 438 mm
displayed: 330 × 537 × 60 mm
Presented by Sir John Rothenstein through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1963

Catalogue entry

Francis Le Piper ?1640–1698

Hudibras’ Discomfiture at the Hands of the Skimmington
Oil paint on panel
232.5 x 437.5
Presented by Sir John Rothenstein through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1963

Ownership history
… ; ?W. Davies, 1816, sold Christie’s, 9 June 1821 (no.138, as by Hogarth), bought Ford; … ; Southgate’s, bought John Britton by 1830; … ; Thomas Hipp; … ; Sir William Rothenstein by 1904, bequeathed 1945 to Sir John Rothenstein; presented to Tate Gallery 1963.

Exhibition history
Works of Art, Bradford, 1904, no.5 or 6 (as by Hogarth).
Georgian England, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, March 1906, no.8 (or Tate T00621, as by Hogarth).

J.B. Nichols (ed.), Anecdotes of William Hogarth, Written by Himself, 1833 edn, p.349.
John C. Conybeare, ‘The East Haddon Hogarths’, Art Journal, 1874, p.265.
Austin Dobson, William Hogarth, 1902, pp.167–8.

Tate’s four works by Le Piper (see also Tate T00620, T00247 and T00248) entered the collection as separate pairs, in 1959 and 1963, although it seems likely that originally they all formed part of a set of twelve panels illustrating episodes from Samuel Butler’s hugely popular satirical poem, Hudibras. For a general introduction to the series, see Hudibras’s First Encounter with the Bear-Baiters (Tate T00620).

This scene is taken from Part 2, Canto 2. Having escaped the stocks, where they were deposited by Trulla and her companions (Rye Art Gallery), Hudibras and Ralpho are diverted by the advance of a skimmington, a mock procession celebrating a woman’s dominance over her husband and his cuckoldry. Hudibras is outraged by the, in his view, heathenish, antichristian and lewd ‘show of horns and petticoats’. He addresses the throng with a portentous speech, but is interrupted mid-flow by a hurled egg (‘At that an egg let fly, Hit him directly o’er the eye, And running down his cheek, besmear’d, With orange tawny slime, his beard’). The scene shows the bombardment of Hudibras and Ralpho who cling to their horses’ manes as they kick, a flaming cudgel having been shoved under the tail of Ralpho’s. In the background on the right the husband and wife can be seen, ‘Arm’d with a spindle and a distaff, / which, as he rode, she made him twist off’.

Tabitha Barber
June 2009


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