Logo: Silhouette of William Hunter

Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections:
GLAHA 54344

This information is © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2018

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GLAHM 54344: 'The Reward of Cruelty' 1750 - click to view larger image

"The Reward of Cruelty" 1750


CRE BELL, John; (English; fl 1750) AFTER HOGARTH, William; (English; 1697-1764) PUB BOYDELL, John; (English; 1719-1804)

printed in black on white wove paper
46.5 x 38.9
190/1 PAULSON, Ronald 1989 Hogarth's Graphic Works, Third Revised Edition, London, The Print Room, 1989
NFA assisted purchase; acquired to enrich our holdings of prints by Hogarth, who was an artist with whom the Hunterian founder, Dr William Hunter, maintained a valuable friendship. Hunter acquired prints principally as an information resource to be housed in his library. He knew various engravers personally, and collected their works. His most important contact was Hogarth, whom he knew by 1752, and whose prints he collected. The two woodcuts by the otherwise unknown John Bell are among the rarest of Hogarth's prints. Hogarth engraved most of his prints himself, but was attached to the idea of employing specialists to do the mechanical parts of print production. However, he was never prosperous enough to achieve this aim, and in any case he was a skilful engraver. The pair was made with a view to forming one of the major series of 'modern moral subjects', the Four Stages of Cruelty. However, Bell only completed these two images, and Hogarth engraved the series of four images himself in the same year, probably to cut costs. Hunter must have got to know Hogarth at about the time he was working on the Four Stages of Cruelty. The series culminates, in the Reward of Cruelty, not with the execution of the criminal, but the dissection of his body after death. This scene has been shown to combine features of more than one anatomy theatre, including that of the Royal College of Physicians in which the newly separated Company of Surgeons - which Hunter joined in 1747 - had permission to perform their dissections. Hunter has sometimes been identified as the anatomist represented here. The rise of anatomical science in the early 18th century brought a dramatic increase in the demand for bodies for dissection, both in the formal public dissections like that presented by Hogarth and, increasingly, in the private schools of entrepreneurs such as Hunter, who provided all students with a body for dissection. The scramble for bodies, and even riots against the anatomists that accompanied hangings is described by Peter Linebaugh in Albion's Fatal Tree (1976). Hunter's involvement in dissection was something he managed skilfully, and he succeeded in being seen more as scientific creator than as body snatcher.

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For more information please contact Malcolm.Chapman@glasgow.ac.uk