William Hogarth etched and engraved this print on copperplate in 1764. In 1822, by Nichols and Son, Parliament Street, reprinted the work “from the Original Plates Restored by James Heath” for publication by Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, Paternoster Row. We believe that this print is from the 1822 edition.
The full title of the work is The Bathos, or Manner of Sinking, in Sublime Paintings, inscribed to the Dealers in Dark Paintings. Because that title was inadequate, Hogarth added a footnote to it: “See the manner of disgracing ye most Serious Subjects, in many celebrated Old Pictures; by introducing Low, absurd, obscene & often prophane Circumstances into them.”
In that title, we see this work—widely considered to be one of the bleakest artworks of the 18th century because it depicts the Apocalypse without an afterlife—to be an allegory of Hogarth’s view of the state of the world at the end of his life. Indeed, we see even the Angel of Death collapsed in exhaustion after having destroyed the world. Hogarth made this work with the knowledge that his health was failing.
From the title’s footnote, we see another purpose of the work: Declaiming against the public’s continued embrace of the works of the Old Masters.
And, finally, in advertisements for this work before its publication Hogarth stated that it was intended to “serve as a Tail-Piece to all the Author’s Engraved Works, when bound up together”. Whether that explains the title appearing at the top of the page—or whether that text is meant to refer to the end of the world—is for smarter people to determine.