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Prints - The Bad Taste of the Town, or 'Masquerades and Operas'
  • The Bad Taste of the Town, or 'Masquerades and Operas'
    Hogarth, William, born 1697 - died 10
  • Enlarge image

The Bad Taste of the Town, or 'Masquerades and Operas'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)

  • Date:

    1724 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hogarth, William, born 1697 - died 10 (artist)
    Unknown (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Printing ink on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the V&A in 2010.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

In spring 1724 William Hogarth (1697-1764) designed, drew and published this topical satire himself rather that produce work for a printmaker. The first version, sold for a shilling, was originally signed and dated by Hogarth, with a verse below it noting lucrative types of entertainment including opera, masquerades, magic and pantomime that were all the rage at the time but were seen by many as pernicious.

On the left a Jester and the Devil brandishing a bag of money marked £1000 lead a roped crowd into the King's Theatre Haymarket. Some are masked, while one is costumed as Harlequin. From a window above the door the Swiss entrepreneur John James Heidigger (1666-1749), who promoted masquerades and balls at the King's Theatre from 1710 onwards, entreats the crowd to enter. A sign above the door for The Long Room advertises 'Dexterity of Hand' by the fashionable magician Isaac Fawkes or Faux, (1675-1732), one of the first conjurers to perform outside the traditional fairground setting, who also occasionally added a Punch and Judy show to his entertainment, billed then as Punch and his wife Joan. The Long Room was an important feature of the theatre where the masquerades and other entertainments took place. A larger banner, referencing an anonymous print published in 1723 of a scene from Handel's opera Flavio at the King's Theatre that year, depicts the Italian opera stars Gaetano Berenstadt, Francesca Cuzzoni and Francesco Bernardi (or Senesino) being offered the excessive sum of £8000 for their performance.

On the right another crowd enters Lincoln's Inn Theatre, above which John Rich (1692-1761) as Harlequin extols the joys of his popular production The Necromancer, or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus,which opened there in 1723 and in which he starred as Harlequin. Between them a woman wheels a wheelbarrow containing the 'waste paper' of plays by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Congreve, Otway and Dryden, while in the distance the façade of Burlington House is seen as another bastardised form of contemporary taste - the cult for Italian classical art and architecture fostered at the time by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and his protegé, the artist and designer William Kent. A statue of Kent towers above those of Michelangelo and Raphael on the entablature of the building.

Physical description

Engraving entitled Masquerades and Operas. Burlington-Gate showing audiences entering the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, left, for opera and masquerades, and Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, right, to see a pantomime, with the facade of Burlington House in the background.

Place of Origin

London (printed)


1724 (published)


Hogarth, William, born 1697 - died 10 (artist)
Unknown (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Printing ink on paper


Height: 14.8 cm, Width: 18.9 cm

Descriptive line

Print entitled Masquerades and Operas. Burlington-gate. Also known as The Bad Taste of the Town. Engraving by William Hogarth (1679-1764) first published 1724. George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.


Printing ink; Paper




Entertainment & Leisure; Prints; Opera; Magic; Pantomime; Satire; Masquerade; Audiences


Theatre and Performance Collection

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