Collection Artwork
William Hogarth (London, England, 1697 – 1764, London, England)
The Bench
1758
etching/engraving
image size: 6 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.
paper size: 13 1/2 x 9 3/8 in.
Bequest of Edwin de Turck Bechtel
England, Europe
1957.50
Inscribed in pencil, verso, upper center: 8 ½ x 12 ½ [upside-down]
Stamped in black ink, verso, center: [collector’s stamp]
Inscribed in pencil, verso, lower center: [illegible] / Survived First State / [illegible, possibly a name]

Object Label

These four pompous members of the English judiciary are exactly the sort who gave rise to the term “bigwig.” Indifferent to the case before them, their characters are revealed by two mottoes barely visible in the wall emblem above them: “semper eadem” (“Always the same”) and the fragmentary “mal y pense” (“Think evil of it”). Thomas Jefferson suggested English judges looked “like mice peeping out of oakum” (the loose fiber obtained by pulling apart old ropes). English judges and barristers continue to wear these heavy and expensive wigs today, although there has been talk of discontinuing the practice.

From the exhibition: Hair: Untangling a Social History (January 24 – June 6, 2004)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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