Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
David Garrick with his Wife Eva-Maria Veigel
The celebrated actor-manager David Garrick (1717-79) was one of the most frequently painted subjects in eighteenth-century Britain. Despite their close friendship, formed after Hogarth painted Garrick as the King in William Shakespeare's Richard III in 1745 (Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery), tradition has it that artist and sitter quarrelled over this portrait. Garrick was displeased with his likeness and there are signs that Hogarth scored through the eyes. X-rays reveal that the sitters were originally placed in a domestic interior which was replaced by a column with a hanging cord. Although Garrick paid £15 for the painting in 1763, it was in Hogarth's studio at the time of the artist's death in the following year.
The precedents for the composition lay both in an earlier iconographical tradition, that of genius inspired by a muse, and also in contemporary French painting which was similarly rococo in spirit. Hogarth has depicted Garrick's wife, the Viennese dancer Eva-Maria Veigel (1725-1822), known as Violetti, in a coquettish pose which could be seen as either inspiring or distracting the great actor from his work composing a prologue to a satire on connoisseurship (Samuel Foote's comedy entitled Taste).
Hogarth was appointed Serjeant-Painter to George II in 1757, but his relationship with the royal family was always unsatisfactory. His preliminary oil-sketch for a conversation piece of the family was never realised on a larger scale.
Signed and dated W Hogarth / [p]inxt 1757 and inscribed (on the book above the desk) SHAKE/SPEARE and (on the paper on which Garrick writes) The Prologue to / Taste
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002