William Hogarth

William Hogarth. South Sea Bubble.Works. London, 1835.

William Hogarth. South Sea Bubble. Works. London, 1835.

William Hogarth (1697-1764) engaged with the great social and political issues of his time, including the feverish bout of financial speculation known as the South Sea Bubble. When the Bubble burst in the last months of 1720, European markets collapsed, and Hogarth’s response was brutal.

In the present work he depicts the grossly mutilated and blindfolded figure of Fortune hanging by her hair from the balcony of London’s Guildhall. Her body is being hacked at by a scythe-wielding devil, who throws hunks of flesh to crazed speculators below. Nearby, a spinning merry-go-round represents the frantic whirl of speculation and spinsters queue on a balcony to take part in a raffle for lottery-winning husbands.