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Several years before William Hogarth began his career as an engraver, medley prints such as Sot's Paradise by George Bickham the Elder (1684-1758) emerged on the graphic arts scene in London in the early eighteenth century and grew increasingly popular as modes of political satire and entertainment. The phenomenon of a seemingly mixed-media image, which was, in fact, engraved entirely on copper, was an exceptionally modern and innovative art form. It appealed to intellectual consumers because of its diverse selection of literary, mythological and allegorical content. Sot's Paradise, for example, is a collage of scenes and imagery, from Aesop fables to Commedia dell'arte, as well as portraiture and text.

One of the reasons medley prints appear to be so innovative is because of their appeal as advertisements for a range of talents and skills in engraving. They almost act as a marketing ploy to show off the engravers ability to draw detailed portraits at the same time as presenting their skills in calligraphy and text. They also demonstrate the exceptional skill of the engraver, convincing the viewer that they are looking at portrait-prints, genre scenes, and playing cards, overlaid onto separate pieces of paper that are sometimes folded at the corners and often have the illusion of shadow. The imagery of overlap is powerful in its complexity and artistic virtuosity.

For William Hogarth, an artist who strived to convey expertise and innovation in all of his work, the medley print was the ideal inspiration for the format of his engravings. We can see Hogarth's use of the medley print concept in many examples of his work. He overlays street-signs onto a crowded street scene, or underlays paintings by situating them on the back walls of an interior setting. These layers constitute additional dimensions of imagery and meaning, resulting in a collage of representation.

-Erin Cork

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