The Five Orders of the Perriwigs
William Hogarth ( British, 1697 - 1764 )
- October 15, 1761
This etching was intended to make fun of the scholars James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, who had just published The Antiquities of Athens Measured (1762–1790). Eighteenth-century British high society’s personalities and quirks are put on view in this storefront-like display that combines word and image. This satirical critique plays on the cult of Vitruvius, which established standards of composition and beauty on the measurements of ancient statues or columns. These were categorized into five classical orders: Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Composite, and Corinthian. Here, William Hogarth arranged wigs according to the five social classes who wore them and used the text to assign appropriate categories and parody the publication of Stuart and Revett’s book. The “orders” of hairpieces include “Episcopal,” worn by churchmen; “Old Peerian or Aldermanic,” worn by city officials; “Lexonic,” worn by lawyers; and “Composite or Half Natural” and “Queerinthian or Queue de Renard,” worn by suitors. Hogarth created a sixth “order” for women’s wigs, shown on the bottom row.
Nicole Myers, DMA label copy, 2018.