Adam Roberts:

Let’s say Hogarth sees religion less in terms of mystic or transcendent aesthetic intensities, and more in terms of real-world life and engagement, social and human interaction, the moral logic of lived experience and the dignity and beauty of life as informed (actually, not idealistically) by the divine. Hogarth’s ‘scenes from the Bible’ paintings are busy, varied, human-populated scenes, and so are almost all his paintings. His is all religious art.

So: Hogarth didn’t fill exhibition halls with immaculately beautiful Virgins Mary in blue velvet dresses, but it strikes me as impossible to ‘read’ a masterpiece like ‘Gin Lane’ without understanding that the woman in the centre of the composition is, designedly, an anti-Madonna, her infant tumbling away, the sores on her legs parodic stigmata, a satiric engagement that works, as a sort of semiotic photographic-negative, to affirm precisely the religious meanings that are so dulled and diluted by the thousand polished perfected Prado Madonnas.