03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, Art & Humanities, Teaching

Lesson Plan: Tête a Tête

Lesson Plan: Tête a Tête

The image from the 250 is ONLY scene 2 of William Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode, however it is impossible to understand this scene without the whole set. In brief, the 6 scenes are as follows:

  1. The marriage agreement being negotiated and signed by the fathers, much to the future wife’s dismay and future husband’s indifference
  2. Wife and husband are exhausted from a night’s frivolity in separate pursuits: her to card games and him in the company of other women
  3. The husband is at the doctor’s with a young sickly girl, you can see indications of sickness and syphilis spots
  4. The wife is in her toilette getting ready for the day while receiving visitors, one man (to the right) is identified as her lover
  5. After a ball, the wife and her lover take a room for the night but they are discovered by her husband and as her lover flees out the window, the husband dies
  6. After hearing of the hanging of her lover, the wife drinks a bottle of laudanum to commit suicide; a nurse holds her child for a final kiss, and the child is deformed by congenital syphilis
Read more: #98. The Tête à Tête, from Marriage à la Mode. William Hogarth. c. 1743 CE. Oil on canvas.

I have my students practice creating a hypothesis for the content by working on deep looking skills. In partners (or it can be done singly, but trios are too large) give the pair a legal sheet of paper and have them fold it into 6 squares (like a comic book). I then give each pair color images of the Marriage a la Mode with out ANY text and in a mixed up order

Note: You are free to use the pdf I linked HERE or print your own high resolution copies from the National Gallery of Art’s website.

I give the pair 10 minutes to 1) decide the order they believe the images go in and 2) write a brief narrative for each image in their comic strip boxes. If there is time, it’s nice to have student’s share or walk around to see what other students came up with. I’ve never had a group ever get them all in the correct order but their creations are usually hilarious.

After they have finished their narratives, and shared if you are doing that, I give them this article from the Tate Museum to see if they were correct or not (I cannot find this article on their website anymore!). As students are reading the article, I have them take notes on the series as a whole.

After the students complete their independent reading & note taking time (about 10-15 minutes), I go over Hogarth’s overall style. How, although, he was inspired by the same topics as Rococo artists, he was satirical about the aristocratic lifestyle, not creating a fantasy with them like Fragonard does in The Swing. By the way, these are two fantastic pieces to contrast the art movements of Rococo and Naturalism. Als, they both deal with female infidelity but in two drastically different ways.

If students need more in depth information on Marriage à la Mode there is a 12 minute SmartHistory video on it (I never have had time to do the video in class).


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