We know the ‘Father of Freemasonry’, John Desaguliers, was a sycophant. Hogarth shows this with a clever little riddle.
A ‘fart catcher’ was a servant who ran alongside the carriage and became a slang term for any footman or sycophant. Hogarth draws Desaguliers behind a carriage, holding a vinaigrette (a small silver box that held smelling salts). It is positioned at the tail of the animal that is part of the heraldic shield on the carriage, creating the impression that Desaguliers is running behind the carriage, catching a fart from this animal, and then smelling it in his vinaigrette. This rather obscure picture riddle (in A Man of Taste) has not been worked out for centuries.
I can show how Hogarth slandered Desaguliers several times within his work. We see the same man above being pushed off a table; standing under a dripping candle; and dressed in drag as an old crying woman!
Hogarth despised another member of Grand Lodge who he famously featured having a chamberpot of urine being dumped over his head! However, this was never meant to be critical to Freemasonry in general. There are many Masonic clues to prove this, including the symbol of Euclid’s triangle that is formed by the barber’s pole above them.
Much of Hogarth’s work contained hidden Masonic clues. Indeed, A Harlot’s Progress was created around the concept of putting a Masonic sign into every scene.
Next – A Harlot’s Progress.