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 The composition

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kimerajamm
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PostSubject: The composition   January 31st 2011, 11:35 pm

At the far right, a black man fondles the breasts of a woman, distracting her from her work,[18] her pie-dish "tottering like her virtue".[19] Confusion over whether the law permitted slavery in England, and pressure from abolitionists, meant that by the mid-eighteenth century there was a sizeable population of free black Londoners; but the status of this man is not clear.[20] The black man, the girl and bawling boy fill the roles of Mars, Venus and Cupid which would have appeared in the pastoral scenes that Hogarth is aping. In front of the couple, a boy has set down his pie to rest, but the plate has broken, spilling the pie onto the ground where it is being rapidly consumed by an urchin. The boy's features are modelled on those of a child in the foreground of Poussin's first version of the Rape of the Sabine Women (now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art),[21] but the boy crying over his lost pie was apparently sketched by Hogarth after he witnessed the scene one day while he was being shaved.

The composition of the scene juxtaposes the prim and proper Huguenot man and his immaculately dressed wife and son with these three, as they form their own "family group" across the other side of the gutter.[4] The head of John the Baptist on a platter is the advertisement for the pie shop, proclaiming "Good eating". Below this sign are the embracing couple, extending the metaphor of good eating beyond a mere plate of food, and still further down the street girl greedily scoops up the pie, carrying the theme to the foot of the picture. I. R. F. Gordon sees the vertical line of toppling plates from the top window downwards as a symbol of the disorder on this side of the street.[1] The man reduced to a head on the sign, in what is assumed to be the woman's fantasy, is mirrored by the "Good Woman" pictured on the board behind who has only a body, her nagging head removed to create the man's ideal of a "good woman".[22] In the top window of the "Good Woman", a woman throws a plate with a leg of meat into the street as she argues, providing a stark contrast to the "good" woman pictured on the sign below.[23] Ronald Paulson sees the kite hanging from the church as part of a trinity of signs; the kite indicating the purpose of the church, an ascent into heaven, just as the other signs for "Good Eating" and the "Good Woman" indicate the predilections of those on that side of the street;[22] but he also notes it as another nod to the pastoral tradition: here instead of soaring above the fields it hangs impotently on the church wall.[4]




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