Before

Object Details

Title:

Before

Artist/Maker(s):

William Hogarth (English, 1697 - 1764)

Culture:

English

Date:

1730 - 1731

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

40 x 33.7 cm (15 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.)

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This narrative painting describes the moments before a seduction. A young man in red breeches attempts to pull a young woman onto a bed. Struggling, she tries to push him away, dragging her dressing table down with her. Ironically, an open drawer reveals a book on the rules of courtship. Below, a small dog barks, alarmed by the commotion.

In the Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, published in 1785, John Nichols wrote that a "certain vicious nobleman," the Duke of Montague, supposedly commissioned this painting and its companion, After. According to an old tradition, the protagonist was said to have been Sir John Willes, later Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.

Many artists made engravings, some of them scandalous, after these paintings. Hogarth's engravings after his own paintings are truer to the originals.

Provenance
by 1785 - 1801

Frederick Ponsonby, third earl of Bessborough, 1758 - 1844 (Bessborough House, Surrey, England) [sold, Besborough sale, Christie's, London, February 7, 1801, lot 67a (lot added in by hand in the CL copy, in same lot as companion), to Charles Howard.]

1801 -

Charles Howard, eleventh duke of Norfolk, 1746 - 1815 (Arundel Castle, Sussex, England)

by 1833 -

Henry Ralph Willett, 1786 - 1857 (England)

- 1919

Baroness Cornelia Henrietta Maria Spencer-Churchill Guest Wimbourne, 1847 - 1927 (Canford Manor, Dorset, England) [sold, Wimborne sale, Christie's, London, June 20, 1919, lot 72 (in same lot as companion), to F. Holbrooke.]

1919 - still in 1925

F. Holbrooke (Bladon Castle, Burton on Trent, Stafford, England) [unsold, Holbrooke sale, Christie's, London, June 12, 1925, lot 153 (in same lot as companion).]

by 1931 -

Art Gallery (Leicester) (London, England)

by 1949 -

Thorsten Laurin (Stockholm, Sweden)

- 1959

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, July 15, 1959, lot 132 (in same lot as companion) through Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London, England) to J. Paul Getty.]

1959 - 1976

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

Exhibitions
Hogarth (December 2, 1971 to February 6, 1972) (Cat. 52)
  • Tate Britain, (London), December 2, 1971 to February 6, 1972
William Hogarth Dipinti, Disegni, Incisioni (August 26 to November 12, 1989) (Cat. 134)
  • Fondazione Giorgio Cini, (Venice), August 26 to November 12, 1989
Depictions of Women by William Hogarth and his Contemporaries (September 19, 1995 to January 7, 1996) (Cat. 134)
  • Huntington Art Collections, (San Marino), September 19, 1995 to January 7, 1996
Hogarth (2006) (October 18, 2006 to August 26, 2007) (Cat. 41)
  • Tate Britain, (London), February 5 to April 29, 2007
  • CaixaForum Barcelona, May 21 to August 26, 2007