The famous William Hogarth painting March of the Guards to Finchley has been sold for £4million to a new London museum.

The 1749 satirical masterpiece has been acquired for the new Foundling Museum in London. It was paid for by large grants from the Art Fund charity and the Government-sponsored National Heritage Memorial Fund.

The painting depicts the drunken state of the King's Guards in London on their way to Finchley Common, a regular site for army manoeuvres, in 1745. They were there to fight off the advancing Catholic Jacobites, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, who had claims on the English throne.

Despite the army's debauchery the English defeated the Jacobites.

The painting was intended for George II, but he did not take kindly to Hogarth satirising his army.

So Hogarth organised a lottery for the painting, which was won by the Foundling Hospital for abandoned babies, which he helped set up. It was displayed along with other works by English in what became the first public art gallery.

The painting was sold by the Coram Family charity which ran the hospital, under Government guidelines to stop charities owning valuable artworks. It will soon be joined by the rest of its collection. The museum is open by appointment only to groups of 20 or more. Call 020 7841 3600.

June 21, 2002 15:00