A Harlot’s Progress contains all the hand signs of the first four degrees of Freemasonry. Without divulging the actual secret, I compare the prints to exposés that were recently republished by a Masonic research group.Hogarth disguises the hand signal between the central characters. With some amazing contortions, the artist manages to dovetail a password or a secret ‘knock’ into every single print of the series. He creates enough ambiguity in the details to allow non-Masons to devise their own narrative. This is the real genius of William Hogarth!
Hogarth’s next series of ‘cartoons’ exposed a famous group of homosexuals. Here we see them in a ‘circle of cocks’. You can see the paintings of two fighting cocks, as well as all the phallic objects that are pointed towards the Rake.
The series begins with the Rake as a young man. Hogarth has drawn an unmistakable penis within the folds of the young rake’s breeches, as his tailor grasps the scissors in a rather suggestive manner. Masons will recognise that he is standing with his feet at a square, his fingers forming the shape of a compass.It takes me three chapters (and a dozen shocking graphics) to explain why Hogarth depicts the Rake as a homosexual. One of the most overlooked hints has got to be ‘The Holy Bible’ which, by cutting a part out, Hogarth has created the word ‘horible’.
There are many other details within A Rake’s Progress which have confused commentators for centuries.
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