Fourth Stage of Cruelty


Fresh from the gallows, Nero’s corpse is brought to a medical theater, where it is disemboweled and dissected by three surgeons while a senior faculty member supervises. As one surgeon pierces Nero’s eye socket, another delves into his rib cage to pull out his intestines, which an attendant stuffs into a bucket. In the foreground, a dog licks Nero’s heart in an act of poetic justice. Bones boil in a cauldron at right, indicating that the ultimate fate of Nero’s body is to await reassembly into an anatomical model—a truly fitting end to his career as an abusive miscreant.

William Hogarth (1697–1764)
Fourth Stage of Cruelty (Reward of Cruelty)
Red chalk; incised with stylus and squared for transfer in graphite; verso rubbed with red chalk for transfer.
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) in 1909.
The Morgan Library & Museum, III, 32e.