The Four Stages of Cruelty

The Four Stages of Cruelty
The Four Stages of Cruelty, copper engravings. Hogarth was perhaps the first Animal Rights campaigner. These engravings were intended to show how cruelty to animals leads to moral degeneration and murder.
The extended moral of the whole series, therefore, is that cruel children, if left unchecked by society, become cruel adults. Hogarth suggests that it is a natural progression from Nero’s abuse of animals to his life of crime, culminating in his vicious attack on another human being. Only then, belatedly, does the establishment intervene with an act of legalized violence, hanging. The final scene continues the theme to startling and ironic effect, when, after execution, Nero’s body is brutally and gratuitously dissected, watched by lawyers, surgeons, clerics and gentleman onlookers.

1. First Stage of Cruelty.
Boys being cruel to small animals.

2. Second Stage of Cruelty.
Men exploiting domestic animals. An overladen horse, a man kills a sheep in the street, bull baiting and a child is run over by a wagon.

3. Cruelty in Perfection.
Tom Nero has murdered his girlfriend by cutting her throat, after inducing her to steal her mistress's jewels, and is arrested by an angry mob when found standing over the body.

4. The Reward of Cruelty.
This famous last plate in the series shows the body of the executed Tom Nero (the rope still around his neck) being dissected in the Surgeon's Theatre Old Bailey (conveniently close to Newgate Prison) by Hogarth's friend Dr John Freke of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

William HOGARTH (1697-1764)

Condition
Good

W
42.00cm
16.54 inches
H
49.00cm
19.29 inches
Origin
England
Medium
Engraving
£1,500.00

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