Tom Measured for New Clothes 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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Tom Measured for New Clothes is the first of William Hogarth’s paintings that depicted the rise and fall of a wealthy merchant’s son. The subject is called Tom Rakewell.

He is the heir of vast wealth from his deceased father and the series of paintings shows how he gained the fortune, squandered it and ended up in prison. He later dies in a hospital. This series of paintings is called A Rake’s Progress. This painting was made of oil on canvas in 1732. It was later engraved in 134 and published as a print a year later. Today, it is under Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, where visitors can view it for a specific period each day. This first painting of the series is titled, ‘The Heir.’ In the piece of art, Tom inherits a fortune from his misery dad. While the servants that worked under the father mourn for the loss, Tom is measured for some new expensive clothes. Besides, he lets go of her pregnant fiancée called Sarah Young, despite a common-law marriage.

Tom opts to pay her off despite a promise to formalise the marriage. (The finance holds on to the ring he gave to her as a sign of engagement while her mother holds on to the love letters sent by him). Later on in the series, viewers will learn that the lady loved Tom as she tries to win him back. Several pieces show that the father was a miser. First, there is a portrait on the wall that shows him counting money. There is also a jack and spit (these are locked up at the upper right side) and there clamped vices on the court of arms that carry the motto, ‘Beware.’ Despite these signs of cash, there is a starved cat that shows that it got little food from the father. There is also a lack of ashes in the fireplace, a sign that the father rarely bought wood to heat the home.

Another interesting bit is that the engraving shows that the father repaired his shoes with a sole made of leather cut from the cover of the bible. William was more inclined to a naturalist painting with a vivid depiction of the scenery. Viewers can tell the mood, some history and the likely future of the subjects in the painting by just looking at it. He played with shades and lighting to ensure that all the objects are clearly visible while making subtle additions to drive his message home. Tom Measured for New Clothes is a masterpiece from the great storyteller.