Marriage à la Mode, Plate 1 of 6, 1743, oil on canvas by William Hogarth, British, 1697-1764. National Gallery, London.
This is already an unhappy marriage between the daughter of a rich and miserly merchant and the son of an impoverished Earl. The theme follows John Dryden’s comedy of the same name.
The Earl points to his lineage from William the Conqueror as his unfinished building, because of lack of money, shows through the window. The gold in front of him is from the new wife’s dowry, and his foot is wrapped because of gout from rich foods and high living.
The bride and groom sit together at the left. He looks to the side as she twiddles her wedding ring on a handkerchief. Her attorney, Silvertongue, whispers in her ear as he is likely to do when the two eventually become lovers.
Two dogs, male and female and chained together, sit at their feet. The walls are covered with Old Masters depicting scenes of martyrdom and a screaming Gorgon’s head.
There is almost no end to the symbolism and allegory used by Hogarth to tell this story.