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William Hogarth (1697-1764)

Scene in the Beggar's Opera c.1728-29

RCIN 913487

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A chalk drawing of a scene from 'The Beggar's Opera' by John Gay, which had first opened at Lincoln's Inn Fields at the end of January 1728 and proved hugely popular. Here, the highwayman Macheath (centre) is shown in the Newgate Prison with both his wife Polly (to the right) and his mistress Lucy (to the left) pleading with their fathers for his life. In the background can be seen the boxes on stage which held members of the audience. This drawing is a study for the first of two versions of the scene painted by Hogarth. It is splashed with oil colours suggesting that he continued to refer to it as he moved to working the theme on canvas.