the line of beauty (to commemorate the 250th anniversary of mr hogarth’s death)


hogarth, the line of beauty & trump: ‚william hogarth, painted by w. hogarth, engraved by benj[amin] smith, from the original picture in the collection of john & josiah boydell, published june 4 ,1795 […] at the shakespeare gallery pall mall‘. kupferstich nach ‚the painter and his pug‘, 1745 (heute in der tate gallery, london).


[…], in the year 1745, [i] published a frontispiece to my engraved works, in which I drew a serpentine line lying on a painter’s pallet, with these words under it, THE LINE OF BEAUTY. The bait soon took; and no Egyptian hierogliphic ever amused more than it did for a time, […]



It is to be observed, that straight lines vary only in length, and therefore are least ornamental.
That curved lines as they can be varied in their degrees of curvature as well as in their lengths, begin on that account to be ornamental.
That straight and curv’d lines join’d, being a compound line, vary more than curves alone, and so become somewhat more ornamental.
That the waving line, or line of beauty, varying still more, being composed of two curves contrasted, becomes still more ornamental and pleasing, insomuch that the hand takes a lively movement in making it with pen or pencil.
And that the serpentine line, by its waving and winding at the same time different ways, leads the eye in a pleasing manner along the continuity of its variety, if I may be allowed the expression; and which by its twisting so many different ways, may be said to inclose (tho‘ but a single line) varied contents; and therefore all its variety cannot be express’d on paper by one continued line, without the assistance of the imagination, […] where that sort of proportion’d, winding line, which will hereafter be call’d the precise serpentine line, or line of grace, is represented by a fine wire, properly twisted round the elegant and varied figure of a cone. […]



[…] Though all sorts of waving-lines are ornamental, when properly applied; yet, strictly speaking, there is but one precise line, properly to be called the line of beauty, which in the scale of them [fig. 49, plate I] is number 4: the lines 5, 6, 7, by their bulging too much in their curvature becoming gross and clumsy; and, on the contrary, 3, 2, 1, as they straighten, becoming mean and poor, […]

william hogarth, ‚the analysis of beauty‘, london, 1753


fig. 49, ‚plate I, the sculptor’s yard‘ aus ‚the analysis of beauty‘.