In the Margins: Children and Graphic Satire in the Eighteenth Century and Early Nineteenth Century
As Marcia Pointon observed, the middle of the eighteenth century saw the substitution of genealogical ideology with a child-centred one. The notions of family and nurturing increasingly took precedence over the confident demonstration of bloodline, as English bourgeois values supplanted those of aristocratic inheritance. This shift in attitude manifested itself in the indulgent depictions of children in family portraiture. A parallel artistic movement in the period was the development of fancy paintings, images of street children which challenged the distinctions between adulthood and childhood, and innocence and experience, upon which higher-status portraiture depended. Drawing upon the modern critical discussions of portraits of both affluent and impoverished children, this chapter addresses the neglected topic of the representation of children in British graphic satire in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. It examines the depiction of the child both in moral series, such as William Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress (1732), and in popular political prints. This chapter explores the extent to which the approved discourse of parental indulgence in domestic portraiture and the discourse of tainted innocence in fancy paintings have their corollaries in the engraved images of this period.