The Industrious 'Prentice Performing the Duty of a Christian 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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Hogarth's image of The Industrious 'Prentice Performing the Duty of a Christian was originally part of a series of 12 engravings created in 1747. Hogarth intended this series of moralizing art, titled "Industry and Idleness", to instruct the youth of the day and guide them towards a successful life.

Hogarth was concerned about the declining morals of society and his images often portrayed the gritty life of many of the characters he would see around London, England. In this series of prints, which later sold for a shilling each, he told the story of two weaving apprentices: Thomas Idle and Francis Goodchild. Naturally, Francis Goodchild was the dutiful, hardworking apprentice whereas Thomas Idle was his opposite. Thier story is told through the series of images. The success of Goodchild's wholesome endeavours is compared and contrasted with Thomas Idle's eventual downfall; a direct result of his bad habits and lifestyle.

In this image, which is the second in the series, we see the Hogarth's first "lesson" which shows Francis Goodchild at church (plate 3 in the series shows the contrasting scene of Tom Idle messing around outside the church). We see Francis standing upright and pious in St Martin's-in-the Field. He is well-dressed and sharing his hymnbook with the master apprentice's daughter. The image was designed to demonstrate that success begins with dedication and duty. Hogarth also ensured that the popular and fashionable tricorn hat worn at the time, featured in the image.

Hogarth also includes some other characters in the church setting. The older pew keeper sits with the keys by her side, watching for latecomers. Note the older man, asleep behind Francis and the vain woman with the fan. Hogarth was a master of caricature. Each plate in the series includes a bible verse. These bible texts were apparently suggestions made by Rev. Arnold King, a friend of Hogarth's. This plate bears the text from Psalm CXIX ver:97. The last time the original Hogarth plates were used was in 1822 when the series was published by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy after James Heath, engraver to the Queen, restored Hogarth's plates.