An image of Cruelty in perfection

William Hogarth

(England 10 Nov 1697 – 25 or 26 October 1764)

Cruelty in perfection, from the series The four stages of cruelty

Location
Not on display
Further information

Hogarth designed this set of prints with a reforming purpose in mind. In his 'Autobiographical notes' he describes his intention: "'The four stages of cruelty' were done in hopes of preventing in some degree that cruel treatment of poor Animals which makes the streets of London more disagreeable to the human mind, than anything what ever, the very describing of which gives pain." The series relates the career of Tom Nero, a child of the slums, who begins by torturing dogs, progresses to beating horses in the street then, as a grown up, murders his pregnant lover, Ann Gill. Finally, Nero is dissected in an anatomy theatre as an executed criminal, a noose still around his neck.

'Cruelty in perfection' shows a churchyard at night, where Tom Nero has been arrested for murder as the body of his lover Ann Gill lies on the ground, her throat slit, amid a bundle of plate she stole from mistress at Nero's request.

Year
1751
Media
Print
Medium
etching and engraving
Dimensions
37.9 x 31.9 cm plate mark; 50.8 x 44.1 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Credit
European Art Collection Benefactors' Fund 2015
Accession number
272.2015.3
Provenance
Laurence W Hodson, England
Larkhall Fine Art Ltd, 04 Apr 2013, Bath/Sommerset/England, purchased at Laurence W Hodson sale, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, London, 4 April 2013, lot 326