The 'Marriage à la Mode' series was Hogarth's first to satirize the upper classes. In particular he was attacking arranged marriages for economic convenience. The series tells of the disastrous marriage of the Earl of Squanderfield's son, Viscount Squanderfield, to the daughter of a wealthy Alderman of the City of London.
The final scene in the series of six takes place in the house of the Countess's father, the Alderman. After reading a broadsheet that announces the hanging of her lover, Silvertongue, for the murder of her husband she has bribed a servant, with the offer of one of her father's coats, to procure laudanum which she has taken.
The servant is chastised by an Apothecary for providing the poison whilst the Countess's daughter, suffering from rickets, is visibly grief stricken. The disgraced Alderman shows little emotion as he callously removes his daughter's expensive ring from her finger before she dies, knowing that the laws of male descent mean that his granddaughter will not inherit the title. The images on the wall depict low-life Dutch subjects ridiculing the Alderman's taste and highlighting the fall of the Countess.