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In 18th-century England, the painter William Hogarth was well-known in the field of Georgian art. He was an artist renowned for his work on portraits.
His subjects represented a varied cross-section of Georgian society. Some of the people in his paintings were also friends of his. One of his pictures was of his friend and patron, Miss Mary Edwards. Mary Edwards was an art patron, said to be the richest woman in Georgian England. As well as being a friend of Hogarth, she was also his patron and commissioned several works from him. Mary Edwards was also the inspiration for several of Hogarth’s works on Georgian society. In 1742, a year before she died, Hogarth painted her portrait. Titled ‘Miss Mary Edwards’, it is a large work that measures approximately 126 x 101 cm. Hogarth uses oil on canvas to produce the painting.
In his painting, Hogarth makes Mary Edwards the central figure. He shows her in a bright red dress that is fine but not overly elaborate. It stands out against the dark background. Equally, the jewellery she is wearing is ornate, but not extravagant. Hogarth's style and attention to detail allowed him to capture the esteem he had for his patron. In painting the portrait of Mary Edwards, Hogarth provides the viewer with imagery that says something about her character and who she was.
Looking at the portrait's background, Hogarth has included a globe and busts. These objects suggest wisdom and artistry. There is also an open scroll clearly on display. The meaning of the scroll is that it represents liberty and property. Mary has her hand on the head of a dog located next to her. The dog is looking up at his mistress with affection. Hogarth’s inclusion of the dog is unusual in that they tend to be associated with male subjects in portraits. Some critics think that including a dog provides the viewer with the notion that Mary Edwards was proud to be self-reliant. Critics view the painting of Miss Mary Edwards as being a masterpiece amongst Hogarth's other portraits of the middle-class. His most famous work is that of his friend and philanthropist, Captain Coram. Today the painting of Mary Edwards is on display to the public at the Frick Collection in New York City. The collection acquired the picture as a gift from Henry Clay Frick.