artist name William Hogarth
title of work O, the Roast Beef of Old England
date created 1749
O, the Roast Beef of Old England is an engraving by the incredible William Hogarth (we just picked up a lifetime print and it is awesome.) It was originally a painting, and then translated into an engraving shortly after. The print is a scene that takes place in England, as the name suggests. The print makes use of a range of artistic elements to draw the viewer in to the subject matter, and leave them pondering the potential content of the piece. On the surface, the print depicts an aproned man carrying a large knuckle of roast beef on a spike presumably towards some kind of dining establishment. This is most definitely the focal point of the piece, though through the use of perspective the artist creates an equally interesting foreground and background. In the foreground a number of demonic looking women stare at the face of a manta ray. Their faces seem to be morphing into one homologous form mirroring that of the creature. Hogarth uses faces throughout the piece both create implied lines focusing on the giant piece of meet thus leading the viewer to the focal point. Hogarth also displays a wide range of facial expressions ranging from perversion (on the friar) to utter desolation (the man in the foreground on the right side of the piece). This sets an atmosphere of wonder, though with slightly disconcerting undertones since the majority of the faces are intensely unpleasant to look at.
Concretely suggesting the content of the piece is a bit difficult given how much is going on at once in the picture. It seems as if the piece of meat is the main point of contention given that the soldiers look at it being carried away from them with protest as they drink their presumably undesirable soup. If a famished soldier is wantonly pouring some out onto the ground it surely cannot be of that good. Passively in the background some religious elements are brought into the piece. Perhaps Hogarth is making the statement that religion was less important than the worldly needs of hunger and poverty, if the location is taken literally when determining possible meaning.