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John Pine – A remarkable 17th century engraver and Freemason

 detail from O The Roast Beef of Old England Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Pine was the model for the friar lusting after a joint of beef in the painting by his fellow freemason William Hogarth

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 Calaison 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 of Arms.

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.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Illustration, designed and engraved by Pine, from Edward Ward’s book of comic poems about marriage, Nuptial Dialogues and Debates, published in 1722. Note the young Pine’s clumsy draughtsmanship when working from his own drawing, suggesting that he probably engraved somebody else’s design for the frontispiece of the Book of Constitutions.

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.

Although Pine’s career prospered, these early works do not show any great artistic accomplishment. The portrait of Crusoe owes its importance to its popularity rather than any artistic merit. Some of the plates drawn and engraved by Pine at this time, such as his illustrations for Edward Ward’s Nuptial Dialogues, are clumsy in design and execution. Pine’s skill as an artist began to grow under the influence of the foreign artists he met in Slaughter’s Coffee House and elsewhere. In 1720, he produced illustrations for a poem by Joseph Mitchell on the biblical subject of Jonah. The illustrations for Jonah show the influence of Bernard Picart (1673- 1733), a French engraver who had been forced to settle in Amsterdam because of his interest in radical philosophical and religious ideas. Pine probably became aware of Picart’s work, because in 1720 Picart illustrated the first French edition of Robinson Crusoe.

Pine was developing quickly as an artist, but nothing in his earlier output prepares us for the most significant work of his early career, the frontispiece of James Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, the first Book of Constitutions produced under the aegis of the Grand Lodge, established in London six years previously. The frontispiece was a prestigious commission. The publisher of the book was John Senex, a leading scientific publisher who produced works by Edmund Halley and the leading popularisers of Newtonian thought, Jean Theophile Desaguliers and Willem s’Gravesande. Senex was one of the most accomplished globe and map makers of the time, and also made scientific instruments. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1728 His associate in the publication of the Book of Constitutions, John Hooke, also published scientific books.

Pine was the model for the friar lusting after a joint of beef in the painting by his fellow freemason, William Hogarth, named, after a popular song of the period, O The Roast Beef of Old England or The Gate of Calais.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry
The frontispiece for the 1723 Book of Constitutions, engraved by Pine, and perhaps designed by Sir James Thornhill

Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Senex probably knew of Pine through his business associate William Taylor, the publisher of Robinson Crusoe, but Pine was not an obvious choice for the job. Many other prestigious artists were also Freemasons, including the most celebrated artist of the time, Sir James Thornhill, as well as Joseph Highmore and Hogarth himself.
The frontispiece of the Book of Constitutions shows John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, Grand Master from 1721-1722, together with his Deputy and Wardens, handing the Constitutions to his successor, Phillip, Duke of Wharton, Grand Master 1722- 1723, who is also flanked by his Deputy and Wardens. Beneath the figures is the 47th Proposition of Euclid.

University of Sheffield,
Facsimile by John Pine of illuminated initials from the charter granted by Henry VI to Eton College in 1440

The Grand Officers are framed in a classical setting representing each of the orders of architecture, with the Sun God Apollo in his fiery chariot above. The design and handling of perspective is very striking. Underneath the picture are the words ‘Engraved by John Pine in Aldersgate Street London’, but the sophisticated treatment of the scene suggests it may have been designed by someone else, perhaps Thornhill, who designed an engraving of King Solomon with Hiram Abiff used in various Masonic publications from 1725.

It is not known when Pine became a Freemason. He was a member of the prestigious Lodge which met at the Horn Tavern in Westminster, one of the four Lodges which formed the Grand Lodge in 1717, now the Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No. 4. He also belonged to the Lodge which met at the Globe in Moorgate, now Old Dundee Lodge No. 18. In 1730, Pine served as Marshal at the Grand Feast, directing proceedings ‘with his truncheon blew, tipt with gold’.

Following his success with the 1723 Book of Constitutions, Pine became the engraver preferred by Grand Lodge. From 1725 to 1741, he produced the annual engraved lists of Lodges. These were directories of Lodges warranted by Grand Lodge, giving details of their time and place of meeting. Each Lodge is distinguished by a miniature engraving of a sign appropriate to the Lodge, usually that of the tavern where the Lodge met. These tiny books are not only charming works of art, but also vital evidence for the early development of Freemasonry.

The Masonic engravings by Hogarth, such as the drunken Freemason returning home in ‘Night’, suggest a troubled relationship with Freemasonry. Pine was more willing to place his artistic gifts directly at the service of the Craft. He enthusiastically suggested ways in which he could assist Grand Lodge, by for example etching minutes of its meetings so that they could be quickly distributed. Pine’s relationship with Grand Lodge was important in his later development as an artist. Freemasonry apparently brought him in contact with the antiquary and scientist William Stukeley, and Pine engraved some of Stukeley’s drawings to illustrate his historical compilation Itinerararium Curiosum. Pine’s interest in wider philosophical issues is evident in his illustrations of Henry Pemberton’s 1728 View of Newton’s Philosophy, a popular account of Newton’s theories.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry
The first Engraved List of Lodges produced by Pine in 1725

Pine not only illustrated this volume, but also subscribed to it, together with his fellow artists and Freemasons, Highmore and Thornhill. Thornhill’s patronage again proved important for Pine in 1725 when he obtained an important commission for both Highmore and Pine to produce illustrations of a procession of the Order of the Bath. As Pine worked increasingly closely with the European artists who gathered at Old Slaughter’s and elsewhere, he developed more ambitious projects. Particularly important was the influence of Hubert François Gravelot, who arrived in London to assist with the illustrations for a huge encyclopaedia of religious ceremonies begun by Bernard Picart. Pine collaborated with Gravelot on his most demanding undertaking to date, a series of engravings of 16th century tapestries in the House of Lords depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada. These sumptuous works were described by Horace Walpole as ‘ornaments to a princely library’.

Between 1733 and 1737, Pine was engaged on his masterpiece, an edition of the works of Horace. Pine’s Horace is the greatest achievement of 18th-century book art. Each part of the hundreds of pages – from the elegant illustrations based on classical jewels to the text itself – was engraved by Pine himself. Such huge projects required lavish funding. In the 18th century, this was obtained by collecting advance subscriptions to the book, an activity in which Pine was a past master.

The subscription list to Pine’s Horace is a directory of London’s social and intellectual stars, from the Prince of Wales to Handel, Pope and Hogarth. Pine’s contact as a Freemason with aristocrats such as the Duke of Richmond and Lord Inchiquin, while they were Grand Masters, assisted in building up these lists. Pine’s entrepreneurial and artistic skills were vital in enabling the surveyor John Rocque to produce the first detailed street plan of London. Rocque’s scheme had foundered due to lack of support, but Pine obtained the backing of the Royal Society and the City Corporation, and again secured vital subscriptions.

Pine’s technical expertise as an engraver was essential in preparing the 24 huge sheets of the map, which finally appeared in 1747. Pine’s achievements brought office and honour. In 1743, he became Engraver of His Majesty’s Signet and Seals, and in the following year Bluemantle Pursuivant in the College of Arms. Hogarth’s depiction of him as ‘Friar Pine’ doubtless (perhaps deliberately) threatened this hard-won respectability. The prints of Hogarth containing references to Freemasonry have been minutely studied. Yet the works of Pine more effectively evoke the intellectual milieu of Freemasonry before 1750: the determination to recapture the ‘Augustan style’; the concern with antiquity; and the fascination with the new Newtonian science. Pine emerges as a man who embodies the spirit of early Freemasonry – intensely sociable but seeking in that sociability to explore the new horizons offered by the ‘century of enlightenment’.

Professor Andrew Prescott is Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield


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