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Samuel Phillips

(active circa 1797–1808 in London)

A Taste in High Life. Stipple engraving after William Hogarth, on wove paper. 38.6 x 46.3 cm. (1798). Austin Dobson, Sir Walter Armstrong, William Hogarth. London / New York 1902, p. 207 III.

Samuel Phillips’ amusing stipple engraving reproduces a painting by William Hogarth, the undisputed master of British satirical artworks. A Taste in High Life of 1742 is a parody of fashion, morals, taste and the general superficiality of the British aristocracy in the 1740s. At the centre of this indoor scene a elderly lady, who is wearing a ridiculously expansive hoop skirt under her floral dress, turns to address an equally extravagantly attired gentleman. This may well be Charles Colyear, 2nd Earl of Portmore, a man renowned for his striking appearance which earned the name of “Beau Colyear”. They are both admiring a tiny china cup and saucer in an extremely affected manner, while to their left another elegantly dressed lady is stroking the chin of a dark-skinned pageboy. The walls in the background are adorned with paintings which again satirise the impractical, expansive crinoline skirts worn by the distinguished ladies, for instance in the shape of a matron whose flared skirt appears to have trapped her in a narrow sedan chair. The crowning glory of this absurd scene is the presence of a sumptuously clad grinning monkey who is using a monocle to study the dinner menu, which includes tongue of duck and rabbit’s ears. Hogarth’s biting social satire was commissioned by the notorious eccentric, Mary Edwards of Kensington, who probably had the painting made by way of revenge for mocking remarks made about her person.

Little is known about Samuel Phillips, the author of the stipple engraving. Amongst other things he made engravings after Richard Westall, Maria Cosway, Henry Singleton and Benjamin West and worked mainly for the well-known London publishers John und Josiah Boydell. The present print appeared in a posthumous edition of Hogarth’s works published by the Boydells in 1808. A very fine, even impression with narrow margins. Minor defects in the margins, minor stains and creases, other slight traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition. From the renowned collection of William Esdaile, London (Lugt 2617).

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