Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:28 AM
This was a year in which the long-awaited general peace was made between the European powers at Aix-la-Chapelle and in which Hogarth was jailed in France as an English spy. More profound and enduring in their impact, however, were the tremendous achievements of 1748 in the fields of art and science.
The peace settlement of 1748 which ended the War of the Austrian Succession allowed Hogarth to visit France, where his drawings of the fortifications at Calais landed him in prison on suspicion of being an English agent. He revenged himself in characteristic style by painting Calais Gate, also known as The Roast Beef of Old England in which the John Bullish portrayal of Frenchmen as scrawny starvelings gave splendid expression to the British prejudice that lasted well into the following century.
Finalized in October at Aix-la-Chapelle, the peace put an end to a complicated and futile conflict of major powers which had involved most European states from Spain and Sardinia in the west to the newly emergent great power of Russia in the east. The most solid gains were made by Frederick the Great of Prussia, who kept the province of Silesia which he had snatched from Maria Theresa in 1741 when her title to the Habsburg dominions was under threat. Although the Austrian Queen's rights under the Pragmatic Sanction were now universally recognized and her husband had been elected to the office of the Holy Roman Emperor as Francis I, Maria Theresa still hoped to revenge herself on Prussia and recover Silesia. Britain and France accepted a restoration of the status quo but the stage had been set for their struggle for mastery in North America and India.
However of greater note perhaps were the cultural and scientific events of 1748. The Swiss Leonhard Euler, at the height of his powers, published a pioneering introduction to analytical mathematics. Sociology and the study of comparative institutions were effectively founded by L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws), in which the French thinker Montesquieu made the first sustained attempt to describe the way in which societies are shaped by climate, history, religion and other factors. In Britain, the first part of David Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding appeared. Hume, a Scot, is still regarded as Britain's greatest philosopher, and the radical scepticism of his Enquiry was to shock both rational and religious thinkers, since it denied the possibility of certainty.
Another Scot, Tobias Smollett, made his literary debut with the novel Roderick Random, a typically rude, racy work, peopled with a gallery of entertaining grotesques. The sensation of the year, however, was a million-word story by an elderly ex-printer. Samuel Richardson's Clarissa is probably the longest novel in English. Nevertheless the book was to be read avidly all over the civilized world. Richardson's achievement was to bring a new range of psychological perceptions to the description of human behaviour but his contemporary popularity probably owed more to another of Clarissa's qualities its excellence as soap opera. Through obstacles, hesitations and changes of fortune Clarissa is pursued by the macho Lovelace. Even when the pursuit ends shockingly in rape there is a twist for Lovelace offers marriage, a proposal that is followed by a further twist Clarissa refuses. . . and dies.
A different kind of surprise had been recorded a few years earlier by the dilettante Horace Walpole on the Grand Tour.
'We have seen something today that I am sure you never read of, and perhaps never heard of. Have you heard of a subterranean town? A whole Roman town with all its edifices remaining underground' Walpole was referring to Herculaneum in Southern Italy a discovery which was soon eclipsed by that of the far larger city of Pompeii. Like Herculaneum, Pompeii had been buried by mud and lava after the great eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. In revealing so much of the Roman way of life, Roman decorative art and Roman wall paintings, the excavation of Pompeii which began in 1748 gave a tremendous new impetus to the worship of 'Antiquity', and was largely responsible for the development of the great European style that dominated the late 18th century Neo-Classicism.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish