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A Rake's Progress, Plate 8, In the Madhouse

William Hogarth1735

SCAD Museum of Art

SCAD Museum of Art

A Rake?s Progress, a series of eight etchings by English engraver and painter William Hogarth, was printed as social commentary for the 18th-century audience. The series focuses on the demise of Tom Rakewell, the heir of a prosperous merchant, who squanders his inheritance on an extravagant lifestyle. In the final plate of the series, Rakewell has been admitted to Bethlehem Hospital, a London mental institution. In the foreground, we see him portrayed as a poor and sickly man who has wasted his riches on a reckless lifestyle. He is destined to spend the rest of his days in an asylum. Presumably, he will be ridiculed by members of high society. Ultimately, in this acclaimed allegorical tale, Hogarth warns of the dangers of excessive living, an overarching theme that echoes through much of his work.

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