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Etching and engraving - A Harlot's Progress
  • A Harlot's Progress
    Hogarth, William, born 1697 - died 10
  • Enlarge image

A Harlot's Progress

  • Object:

    Etching and engraving

  • Place of origin:

    London (printed and published)

  • Date:

    1732 (printed and published)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching and engraving

  • Credit Line:

    The Forster Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 54, Henrietta Street Room

In a 1732 series of prints, A Harlot’s Progress, William Hogarth highlights the moral weakness and systems of exploitation that he saw at work in 18th-century English society. The series of six images tells the story of ‘Hackabout Moll’, the simple country girl drawn into prostitution following her arrival in the city. In this image – plate four – Moll is in London's Bridewell prison, being punished by being forced to beat hemp to make rope. She wears much finer clothes than the other female prisoners (Hogarth may have drawn on a contemporary newspaper report of a prostitute in prison 'beating hemp in a gown very richly laced with silver'), for which she is ridiculed by a woman – another prisoner or the gaoler’s wife – standing over her. Next to the harlot is a well-dressed older man. The playing-cards on the ground indicate that he has lost his money through gambling. In the background is a black woman beating hemp. Her presence in the picture may be intended as a reminder that at this time prostitutes in Britain could face transportation to the colonies as punishment.

Physical description

Print depicting a scene from 'A Harlot's Progress' by William Hogarth. Moll is in London's Bridewell prison, being punished by being forced to beat hemp to make rope.

Place of Origin

London (printed and published)


1732 (printed and published)


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

Materials and Techniques

Etching and engraving

Marks and inscriptions

'Wm.Hogarth invt: pinxt: et sculpt'

'Plate 4'


Height: 38 cm, Width: 31 cm

Descriptive line

Plate IV of the series 'A Harlot's Progress' by William Hogarth, London, 1732

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hogarth's Blacks, Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art, David Dabydeen, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987, pp.106-8

Subjects depicted

Prostitute; Prison


Black History; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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