The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms William Hogarth Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The first plate in a set of 12 engravings by William Hogarth entitled Industry and Idleness, The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms shows two apprentice weavers working diligently alongside their master.

This work contrasts the perils of idleness with the rewards for diligence and hard work. On the left, we see Thomas Idle sleeping near his loom. There is a large mug labelled "Spittle Fields" sitting on the back of his loom, representing alcohol. Below him, the passage from Proverbs 23:21 reads "The Drunkard shall come to Poverty, & drowsineſs shall cloath a Man wth rags," which implies that Tom is a drunkard.

Working the loom on the right is Francis Goodchild, who works diligently and is seen to be paying attention to his labour. The passage below Francis is from Proverbs 10:4 and reads "The hand of the diligent maketh rich." This is a clear indication that Francis respects the Protestant work ethic and is delaying gratification for a brighter future for himself. Notice the tattered book below Tom and the cat interfering with his loom and compare with the clean and organised section where Francis is working. Whilst Francis works in the light emanating from the window, Tom is tucked away in the dark corner.

Mr. West, the master weaver on the far right can be seen frowning disappointingly at Tom. His disappointment with Tom's idleness is foreshadowing for the consequences that are to befall him. When compared, the two weavers each occupy approximately half of the focus each and have similar working conditions. It is through the disorganisation and crooked orientation of Tom's loom that we can clearly contrast him with Francis' adroit and clean loom.

The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms is the first piece of a set which develops the paths of two characters leading similar lives but making choices that eventually lead them to different directions. Although not the first to do so, Hogarth makes use of weavers to represent his ideas of idleness and industriousness. William Hogarth completed this piece in 1747 by way of etching and engraving. The original plate can be found at the British Museum in London, although it is not on display.