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© Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
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|Collection:||Fine Art Paintings and Sculpture|
|Date:||1726 - 1728|
|Artist:||William Hogarth - View biography for William Hogarth|
The Beggar's Opera series were the first paintings by a British artist to depict a play actually being performed on stage in front of an audience. John Gay's musical comedy, The Beggar's Opera, opened at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre in 1728 and was the greatest theatrical hit of its age. It was a parody of Italian opera with the action set in the criminal underworld of London. The actors wore modern dress and sang arias based on popular street ballads. Set in Newgate Prison, the scene shows Polly Peachum (the actress Lavinia Tenton) on the right and Lucy Locket (the jailer's daughter) on the left pleading for the life of the highwayman hero, Macheath. Members of the audience can be seen in boxes which occupy part of the stage. Lavinia Fenton as Polly is shown facing the Duke of Bolton who fell in love with her on the first night and attended all sixty-nine performances. She became his mistress and eventually his wife in 1751.
|Purchased with a capital grant from the City of Birmingham, 1985.|
|Production Period:||18th century|
|Medium:||Oil on canvas.|