The frontispiece for the 1723 Book
of Constitutions, engraved by Pine,
and perhaps designed by Sir James
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
John Pine was a remarkable 17th century engraver* and a Freemason, whose work included the first Book of Constitutions, as Andrew Prescott reveals
John Pine - a sociable craftsman
In 1748, the celebrated English artist and Francophobe,
William Hogarth, surprisingly decided to take a holiday
in France. His behaviour in France was appalling. He was
‘clamorously rude’ to everyone he met.
Whenever anybody admired a view, Hogarth sourly
remarked: ‘What then? It is but French! Their houses are
all gilt and bullshit!’ Waiting in Calais for the boat home,
Hogarth made sketches of some old fortifications, and was
arrested as a spy.
Hogarth was infuriated by his treatment in Calais, and
took revenge in one of his most vitriolic paintings, O, The
Roast Beef of Old England or The Gate of Calais. In the corner
of the painting, Hogarth is quietly drawing, about to be seized
by some French soldiers. In the centre, a cook is carrying a
huge joint of English beef. A fat friar slobbers over the juicy
beef and lunges towards it.
Hogarth used this image not only to mock ‘scanty French
fare’, but also to satirise the ‘farcical pomp of war, parade
of religion ...poverty, slavery and insolence’, which he
considered typical of France.
Hogarth’s painting embodies the violently anti-French
and anti-Catholic prejudices which shaped British national
identity in the middle of the 18th century.
Hogarth modelled the figure of the friar in O, The Roast
Beef of Old England or The Gate of Calais on his friend, the
artist John Pine (1690-1756). It was said that Pine pleaded
with Hogarth not to mock him in this way, but Hogarth was
unrelenting. Pine was known as ‘Friar Pine’ for the rest of his
life. Hogarth felt guilty about his treatment of his friend, and
after Pine’s death, painted an affectionate portrait of him in
the style of Rembrandt.
Hogarth and Pine had a great deal in common. They
were both Londoners, and apprenticed to engravers. Hogarth
quickly tired of copying the ‘monsters of heraldry’, but Pine
became a leading heraldic artist, eventually joining the College
Both men sought to improve the professional status and
education of English artists, helping to secure copyright
legislation which protected artists’ income.
There were many social connections between the two
men. They caroused and argued in the London coffee houses,
such as Slaughter’s Coffee House in St Martin’s Lane. Pine
and Hogarth also both took part in London’s new social craze
of the 1720s: Freemasonry.
Pine was one of the most accomplished engravers of
his generation, but lacked Hogarth’s flair and originality.
Whereas Hogarth’s artistic achievement was very coherent
and distinctive, Pine’s output was more wide-ranging,
comprising not only book illustration, but also heraldry,
maps and facsimiles of historical documents.
Hogarth developed an original and aggressively English
style. Pine’s work is less personal, and more reliant on classical
and continental models.
Pine has never emerged from the shadow of Hogarth,
and his artistic achievements are not widely known.
Pine’s parents were Londoners. It has been suggested on
the basis of Pine’s appearance in Hogarth’s portrait of him that
Pine had black ancestors, but no firm evidence to support this
has been found. At the age of 19, Pine was apprenticed to a
London goldsmith, and became a freeman of the city in 1718.
Pine set himself up as an engraver in Fleet Street, and
quickly had a sensational success. In 1719, the bookseller
William Taylor published an anonymous account of a man
marooned on a desert island. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
(based on the story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who
was also probably a Freemason) became a bestseller.
The frontispiece of Defoe’s book was a vivid portrait of
the castaway in his goatskin clothes. The book was reprinted
so often that the plate wore out, and a new one had to be
made. The frontispiece was the work of Pine and another
London engraver called John Clark.
The success of Crusoe brought Pine a great deal of work,
and enabled him to establish a thriving business near Aldersgate.
He provided illustrations for many popular works, ranging
from a picture of Lady Godiva for a collection of old ballads to
a title page for the London Journal, one of the many popular periodicals
avidly read by the patrons of London’s coffee houses.
* Although he was born in the 17th century (just), his work was undertaken in the 18th century.