After William Hogarth – Sarah Malcolm Aetat XXII No Recompence but Love
Sarah Malcolm Aetat XXII No Recompence but Love. A rare, early, pirated copy of Hogarth’s half-length portrait of the notorious murderess Sarah Malcolm, executed on March 7th, 1733, for the murders of her former employer Lydia Duncomb, Mrs Duncomb’s companion Elizabeth Harrison and their seventeen-year-old maid Ann Price.
This copy has the addition of Thornhill standing behind Sarah Malcolm, with a view of the gallows to the side of her.
Sarah Malcolm had been employed as their charwoman.
She had been involved in another murder four years previously. An innocent man had been hanged after a bloody razor had been found in his possession. The jury had refused to believe that he had learnt it to Malcolm as he claimed.
The Duncomb murders had attracted particular attention because the brutality and recklessness of Sarah’s crime seemed at odds with her youth and good looks.
Lydia Duncomb aged eighty and Elizabeth Harrison aged sixty were found strangled in their beds. Ann Price’s throat had been cut at their apartment in Mitre Court, Fleet St.
Their considerable savings and silver were missing.
A Mr. Kerrel who had chambers on the same staircase, found a bundle of linen. (Sarah later claimed it was her menstrual blood) and a silver tankard concealed under his bed (placed there to incriminate him), and immediately raised the alarm.
Malcolm was arrested after Kerrel and two watchmen found her in the street with £53. 11s. 6d. concealed in her hair and other objects de vertu identified as belonging to Mrs Duncomb hidden about her person.
Although she tried unsuccessfully to incriminate three other associates, she alone was convicted of the murder. Two days before her death Sarah was visited in prison by Hogarth and his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill so that Hogarth could paint her portrait.
It is a remarkable image; the sour, thin lipped face above the powerful frame: ‘A Lady Macbeth in low-life’ as John Ireland called her.
Sarah, unrepentant to the end, was hung in Fleet Street opposite the scene of her crime. Her body dissected by the surgeons and her skeleton subsequently exhibited in a glass case by the Botanic Society of Cambridge.
William Hogarth, (born November 10, 1697, London, England—died October 26, 1764, London). The first great English-born artist to attract admiration abroad. Best known for his MORAL and satirical engravings and paintings—e.g., A Rake’s Progress (eight scenes,1733).
His attempts to build a reputation as a history painter and portraitist, however, met with financial disappointment. His aesthetic theories had more influence in Romantic literature than in painting.