Supplementary illustrations for Angus Whitehead, "'this extraordinary performance': William Blake’s Use of Gold and Silver in the Creation of His Paintings and Illuminated Books," Blake 42.3 (winter 2008-09): 84-108

The gilding process
Grayscale versions of the second and third photos appear in print as illus. 4 and 5. These images are courtesy of Arnold Wiggins and Sons.

Cutting the gold

Laying the gold

Burnishing the gold


Metal material in Jerusalem copy E
All descriptions of the metal material (based on the plates observed under magnification, April 2006) and images by Angus Whitehead; reproduction by permission of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1992.8.1(1-107)).

William Blake, Jerusalem copy E, pl. 14, "One hair nor particle of dust ..." (detail). Relief etching printed in orange, with pen, watercolor, and gold, 13 1/2 x 10 3/8 in. (34.3 x 26.4 cm.)

There is a fairly thick streak of gold on the right-hand side of the plate running outside and parallel with the rainbow. From the upper left to the right-hand end of the rainbow, running through its center, there are specks and patches of metal material forming a fairly continuous arc of gold. There is a large patch of shell silver (or possibly an alloy or very light gold) in the middle of the lower four stars inside the arc of the rainbow. Only the middle of each star is gilded—perhaps Blake could not sufficiently control the metal material to color the outer points of the stars without going beyond their edges.

William Blake, Jerusalem copy E, pl. 63, "Jehovah stood among the Druids ..." (detail). Relief etching printed in orange, with pen, watercolor, and gold, 13 1/2 x 10 3/8 in. (34.3 x 26.4 cm.)

Small specks of gold material are visible under the female's tresses, and larger patches can be traced below her armpit. From her lower right thigh onwards, there is a significant amount of shell gold extending down to the right of her feet. All of this material has been applied on the green (watercolor wash?) the figure and the worm recline upon. To the right there is a patch of shell gold to the right of the worm's rightmost extremity. Light gold has been applied around and between the rays of the crescent moon. Also some specks are evident around the bottom of the crescent moon.

William Blake, Jerusalem copy E, pl. 97, "Awake! Awake Jerusalem ..," (detail). Relief etching printed in orange, with pen, watercolor, and gold, 13 1/2 x 10 3/8 in. (34.3 x 26.4 cm.)

Silver or light gold material is evident on the left-hand side of the crescent moon. Numerous streaks and patches of gold material surround the sun in Los'(?) left hand. There are several spots of gold to the left of his arm and shoulder. Behind Los, a line of specks of gold extends from below his armpit to the top of the grass intersecting with his left calf.

Notes on metal material on other Jerusalem copy E plates

Pl. 1
Very small flecks of shell gold are apparent above either side of the archway, especially to the left. There are two vertical thin (ruled?) lines to the right of the top of the arch and five similar lines at the bottom left-hand outer corner of the arch, probably applied with a pen. These lines run parallel to lines applied in dark ink. There is also gold material (probably shell gold) on the inner apex of the arch.
There are thicker applications of shell gold (reminiscent of those on Marriage copy I [see article, pp. 89, 90]) to the left of Los's left knee and on the edge of the top of the lamp he is carrying; also on the inner edge of the right side of the arch and on the very right of the print to the right of Los's lamp. An "arc" of small specks of shell gold surrounding the lamp forms a halo.

Pl. 2
Shell gold has been applied in pen gilding the letters “Jerusalem” (but not on “The”); on “Ema” and the left-hand side of “n” (but not on “ation of”); not on “The”; only on “G” of “Giant”; only on “Albi” and on left-hand side of “o”; not on “n.” These details are only apparent in direct light (at YCBA, Department of Prints and Drawings, I saw them in bright "studio" conditions, under magnification, as I sat with a large window overlooking a fairly wide street to my left). Blake has evidently colored the remaining ungilded letters in a gold-looking yellow, which from a distance is fairly indistinguishable from the gold. This begs the question, first posed by Rosamund Paice (see article, p. 101): was Blake making a point or economizing? It is unclear (even under magnification) if the bottom inscription is in gold. I doubt it.
Minute dots and lines of shell gold, probably applied with a pen, are evident on the wings of the top right-hand figure and on the back of the headgear and at the nape of the neck of the figure middle left. In the latter case a series of small specks forms a pattern (as in pl. 1; see above). There appears to be a speck of gold over the figure middle left's right eye.
On the grieving (?) figure, middle right, there are gold highlights, applied with a pen, in her hair (?) trailing from the back of her hat and on wings. Gold is similarly applied to highlight the ribbon or line on her mobcap/flower hat. Shell gold is also present on the sun and crescent moon on her wings. Shell gold applied with a pen is used to highlight the top half of her dress, as well as the stars on the back of her dress (blue area of this garment).
On the bottom figure there is a profusion of carefully placed gold highlights in her hair, similar to those in hair of the grieving (?) figure, middle right (see above). There are also subtle touches of gold around the bottom figure's lower torso. Quite thick curved lines of gold have been applied (one on either side) on her upper wings. Shell gold has been used to outline the red circle on the upper-right wing. There are touches of shell gold towards the edge of the wing nearest the adjacent figure. On the middle section of the figure's right wing there are parallel lines in gold applied in pen which appear to echo the effect of the line engraving on the copperplate (apparent in the red edges of the bottom wing, almost certainly the monochrome print media). Numerous stars on both lower wings have been gilded in shell gold (this application of gold material over a blue watercolor wash appears to parallel similar details on the bottom right figure's lower dress, discussed above). There is evidence of gold material along the outer edge of the bottom figure's right leg. On the middle area of her right wing (where her body appears to merge into the wing) there are lines of gold, again probably applied in pen. On the same wing, shell gold has been used to outline the circular area of the moon in eclipse.

Pl. 23
In this plate there are seemingly indiscriminate applications of shell gold and perhaps shell silver in all three designs.
Top design: on the figure's left wing there is a fairly large patch of shell gold in the center, and two smaller specks (probably shell silver) of a lighter color immediately to its left. Smaller specks of the same lighter color are apparent nearer the left tip of this wing.
Middle design: a smear of light-colored shell gold to the left of the head of the smaller kneeling figure on the left. There is a hardly visible trace of light gold top right-hand side of the tree trunk base (?). In addition, there are specks of the same light gold on the left-hand side of the rock to the right of the large right-hand figure. On the right-hand side of the same rock (to the right of the small bald figure resting on his arm) there are faint touches of light gold towards the top of the design and larger specks of dark gold towards the bottom.
Bottom design: at the top of the design a series of patches of thick dark gold interspersed with four small patches of light gold. The very bottom of the design is highlighted from the left to the center by a series of small patches of lighter gold: almost a continuous line, followed by a large gap in the middle bottom. From middle right bottom to right bottom smaller patches of light gold. Small specks of a darker gold have been applied to the right-hand rock (to the right of the furthest right-hand figure).

Pl. 25
Dark gold is very distinctly apparent under the left hand, arm and around the right flank of the top figure. This application appears to echo the effect of the red and blue covering or raining down on the left-hand female and male figure. The same material is particularly in evidence just above the male figure's left shoulder and above his brow. Similar dark gold material is present just to the left of the left-hand figure's middle back and around the upper area of her right buttock above the rock. There is a tiny speck of light gold material on the top half of the rock she is sitting on; two specks of dark gold material toward the bottom of the rock; one on the edge of the rock where it begins to be obscured by shadow; one near the male figure's outer thigh (nearest the rock).|
Immediately below the rock there is a line of dark gold made of small patches (perhaps applied with a small dabber?). A few specks of the same color gold just below this. From below the male figure's left inner calf to the right-hand female figure's left toes are a series of patches of light and dark gold. Some light gold material is visible below the male figure's left foot. Dark gold material is visible near the right-hand figure's left heel. Light and dark gold patches are also visible on the top and right-hand edges of the hewn block the right-hand figure is sitting on. Tiny specks of gold material appear to be raining down from the top figure's left hand down the right figure's back.
Three small red-tinged specks of gold material, flame-like in shape, have been applied just above the right-hand figure's pubic region. These appear to echo the vegetal-looking lines in the background revealed in the space between her waist and the back of her upper left arm.

Pl. 47
In the space between the right-hand figure's left hand and head there are specks of light gold material. Interestingly, there is also a larger patch of lighter gold in the same area, very close to the right-hand figure's head. Blake has glazed over this with blue watercolor, producing a silvery-blue effect (perhaps Blake glazing gold with a cooling color—giving the appearance of silver?—as noticed by Smith on The Last Judgment: see article, pp. 84-85). Light gold material has also been applied under both of the male figure's upper arms, especially the left one, enhancing his outline against the dark background. Also near the male figure's rump there is an extended patch of light gold. This emphasizes the adjacent shadow above it. There are extended patches of light gold material (on the left side) and dark gold material (on the right side) on the upper edges of the object supporting the male figure.

Pl. 59
Specks of gold material are apparent under the right arm of the left-hand figure, also to the left and right of her head. The same material has been applied around and within the spokes of both spinning wheels. A fairly large patch of gold material is visible directly above the right-hand spinning wheel. Two other patches of gold on either side of this wheel have a muddied look and appear to have mixed with the black ink or paint Blake has used to highlight the image. There are also patches of gold material above and under the arms of the middle female figure, as well as under the arm of the right-hand female figure. This figure also has a tiny speck of gold on her extended arm (compare to Robert N. Essick's mention of a similar application to the raised and extended arm of the standing figure in "The Divine Image," Innocence copy Y—see caption to illus. 4 in Blake 41.4 [spring 2008]: 146). All gold material on pl. 59 appears to be a lighter gold, though some applications appear to have reddish spots (perhaps Blake added red pigment to the shell gold)?

Pl. 75
Upper design: patches of gold material are visible at the intersections of the circles as well as around the heads of the angels. The application here seems rather patchy: perhaps some metal material has dislodged from the paper support. On the head of the fourth angel from the right there appear to be traces of shell silver.
Lower design: intermittent patches of gold material are visible on the outlines of the majority of circles on the coils of the creature surrounding the right-hand female's left thigh, as well as on the bottom half of the right-hand female herself. Gold material is also visible on and around the eyes of each of the reptile-like creatures (except the one bottom right). Gold material is present on the left-hand female figure's lower back and buttocks and on the scales below her buttocks. Also a large patch of gold is visible on the back of the neck of the third creature from the left.

Pl. 76
On the small circles of round fruit under the trees/Jesus's arms, small patches of gold are visible, again a case of the material having become slightly "muddied" by the dark paint media it has been applied to.

Pl. 81
At the top of the clouds, dark and light thick gold patches are visible. Shell gold has been used to outline the edges of several clouds and to fill in the smaller spaces between the outlines. A dark shell gold is present in the bottom left-hand corner. Again, perhaps the material has mixed with dark watercolor media.
A thick application of gold is evident to the left of the left-hand figure's left arm and lower back. Intermittent thick applications of gold outline the clouds on either side of this figure, just below the text. Patches of light and dark gold are evident around the ball of her crossed left foot. A large patch of gold is visible beneath the arm of the bottom right female as well as a small patch of gold on the head of the same figure.

Pl. 84
Gold is apparent on the setting sun on the horizon. However, only a few patches have been used to highlight the sun.

Pl. 94
Bottom design: specks of gold on the horizon are used to indicate sunset (?).

Pl. 100
Gold material is evident at the center of the sun. Patches of gold are apparent running down the left flank of the left-hand figure extending from shoulder to toes (left-hand figure's left). A few specks are evident along his right leg. Specks and patches of light and dark colored gold are evident along the bottom of the tail of the Stonehenge table on the left. Similar patches are present on most of the base of Stonehenge. Several patches of gold are present on the top of the Stonehenge temple. The same material is also evident on the left-hand part of the bottom of the right-hand tail (rightmost ring?) of the temple. Patches of gold material are evident around the base of the right point of the tongs the middle figure holds in his left hand. Gold material is also present near the heels of both feet of the right-hand female. Finally, prominent patches of gold material are apparent along the same figure's right hip.