Table of Contents:
Blake’s Circle and Followers:
Barry, JamesBasire, JamesCalvert, EdwardCumberland, GeorgeFlaxman, JohnFuseli, HenryLinnell, JohnMortimer, John HamiltonPalmer, SamuelParker, JamesRichmond, GeorgeRomney, GeorgeSherman, WelbyStothard, Thomas
Appendix: New Information on Blake’s Engravings
The 2012 marketplace offered some notable Blake sales and discoveries. In my last report I briefly mentioned a previously unrecorded impression of pl. 15 from For Children: The Gates of Paradise (Blake 45.4 [spring 2012]: 109, 110). I am now able to provide further information about this uncommon print; see the first entry under Illuminated Books, below, and illus. 1 and its caption.
Copy Y of Songs of Innocence has had a difficult life. It was once part of a (presumably) complete copy hand colored by Blake, but after a fire in the 1890s the salvageable plates were divided into copies R (9 pls., now Keynes Collection, Fitzwilliam Museum) and Y (15 pls.).Neither copy includes the title page (BB pl. 3). The sequence of pen and ink numbers in copy R/Y indicates that 3 other pls. are missing, probably BB pls. 21, 53, and 54. Fire damage to copy R (and hence to Y) was first reported in Geoffrey Keynes, A Bibliography of William Blake (New York: Grolier Club, 1921) 101 (copy R identified as copy M). The 1890s date of the fire is recorded in Keynes, Bibliotheca Bibliographici (London: Trianon P, 1964) 55, no. 508. Evidence for the fire is provided by one “scorched” leaf in copy R (Bibliotheca 55) and the darkened (probably singed) edges of other leaves in both copies. I do not know the basis for Keynes’s dating of the fire. The latter, acquired in 1962 by Walter Neuerburg, was on deposit at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne from 1978 until the early years of this century. The owner, apparently Walter Neuerburg’s heir or heirs, reclaimed the prints in 2004 or 2005 and sold 8 in 6 lots at Sotheby’s New York on 1 November 2007.For information on copy Y, see Detlef W. Dörrbecker, “Innocence Lost and Found: An Untraced Copy Traced,” Blake 15.3 (winter 1981-82): 125-31. For copy R/Y, see Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993) 305-06, 308-09, 311-12, and BBS 119-20. For a report on the 2007 auction, see Blake 41.4 (spring 2008): 140, 142, 145, 146, and illus. 1-5. In late February 2012, I learned from John Windle that the same auction house would offer the remaining 7 plates of copy Y in 6 lots at its 26 April sale. Several characteristics, including different ink colors and the overwriting of poorly printed letters, indicate that Blake’s creation of Songs of Innocence copy R/Y was a reclamation project, similar in that respect to Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy E in the Huntington Library. Such copies largely comprise impressions that had originally been put aside because of weak printing of their texts. Thus, the dates of printing are not necessarily the same as the dates when the pages were selected, collated, numbered in pen and ink, and probably bound by Blake’s wife, Catherine. Some plates may have been colored, in whole or in part, shortly after printing; many plates were colored, or at least had their coloring augmented and many letters overwritten, when they were gathered into copies. Blake evidently assembled prints from several press runs in four ink colors—light brown, dark reddish brown, blue, gray-black—to create copy R/Y in about 1811. He strengthened poorly printed letters by hand, added a few gold highlights, and probably touched up the coloring of some of the designs. “Laughing Song,” however, stands out from the group because of its very different watercolor palette in the design. It was probably printed and hand tinted at an earlier date than its companions.
The auctioneer’s estimates for the plates of copy Y sold in 2007 were tantalizingly low, but the extraordinary prices they fetched—the result of two crazed Blake enthusiasts bidding against each other—prompted Sotheby’s to publish much higher estimates for the 2012 auction. “The Little Boy Lost,” however, was given an estimate lower than its companions because of the questionable authorship of the opaque white pigment applied to the text area—see the caption to illus. 7 for details. I did not attend the auction, but watched it live on Sotheby’s webcam. Prices were strong, with only one lot selling for a hammer price (the winning bid, exclusive of the buyer’s premium) below the estimate range, two lots selling within their ranges, and three lots attracting bids above their high estimates. John Windle, who attended the auction, purchased three lots for two clients. See the entry below under Illuminated Books and illus. 2-8 for further information.
Arthur Vershbow of Newton Centre, Massachusetts, died on 16 April 2012. His collection included posthumous copy p of Songs of Innocence and of Experience and two drawings by Blake, The Waking of Leonora, Design for the Tailpiece of Bürger’s “Leonora” (Butlin #338), and Colinet and Thenot, with Shepherds’ Crooks, Leaning against Trees (Butlin # 769.3), one of the preliminary drawings for Blake’s Virgil wood engravings. In October I learned that the Vershbow collection will go to auction at one of the major New York houses in April 2013.
Maurice Sendak died on 8 May 2012. Renowned for his children’s books and illustrations, Sendak was also a major collector of Blake. I do not know the full extent of his holdings, but record below important works owned by Sendak that I have listed in earlier sales reviews:
The First Book of Urizen pl. 3, design only color printed
Songs of Innocence copy J
Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy H
The Bed of Death, pen and gray wash, Butlin #139
Oberon and Titania on a Lily, watercolor, Butlin #245
Paolo and Francesca (?), pencil, Butlin #816
With Songs the Jovial Hinds Return from Plow, wash preliminary for the Virgil wood engravings, Butlin #769.19
“Chaucers Canterbury Pilgrims,” 3rd st.
“The Man Sweeping the Interpreter’s Parlour,” 2nd st.
Letterpress Books with Engravings by Blake
William Hayley, Ballads, 1805. The pls. hand colored.
William Hayley, Little Tom the Sailor, 1800. Hand colored by Blake and/or his wife, Catherine. Virgil, Pastorals, 1821. Blake’s wood engraving, cuts 2-5, 1st proof st. before the individual designs were separated into 4 blocks and trimmed on their margins.
Sendak had a close relationship with the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, but as of January 2013 that institution is not in a position to confirm that his Blakes will be coming to them.
Grosvenor Prints, London, continues to turn up Blake rarities, although sometimes they do not know exactly what they have. In May I found on their web site a pre-publication proof of Blake’s “Death’s Door” engraved by Schiavonetti—see the entry under Blair, The Grave, under Letterpress Books with Engravings by and after Blake, below.
In my 2011 sales review I briefly noted the discovery of several pictorial works by Blake: a watercolor with a verso drawing, a recto/verso pencil sketch, and a pen and ink drawing possibly by Blake, all in an album owned by a descendant of Charles Augustus Tulk—see Blake 45.4 (spring 2012): 109. The executors of the estate of James Richard Ley, who had inherited the album many years ago, considered giving it to the Tate in lieu of taxes. Their proposal was rejected by H. M. Revenue and Customs for technical reasons, and the executors sold the album in spring 2012 to the London dealer Lowell Libson.In an e-mail to John Windle, 7 June 2012, Libson stated that he had acquired the entire album. He has not answered my inquiries about the album. One work by Blake emerged onto the market by June and another in October—see Harpers and Other Drawings (a nonce title of my own devising) and Parental Affection (Libson’s title) under Drawings and Paintings, below, and illus. 9-12, 14. The verso of Harpers, bearing sketches for America and Europe (illus. 10-11), offers fascinating information about how Blake developed images for his illuminated books. I have not been able to acquire a high-resolution image, sufficient for reproduction in this journal, of Bearded Man and a Youth, my provisional title for the pen and ink drawing perhaps by Blake.
The Fine Art Society of London held a selling exhibition entitled “Samuel Palmer [and] His Friends and His Followers,” 30 May to 22 June. The handsome catalogue includes most of Palmer’s prints and also works by George Richmond and Welby Sherman. These are all listed under their respective artists in the section on Blake’s Circle and Followers, below.
The distinguished London art dealer Andrew Wyld died on 14 November 2011, aged only 62. Christie’s London auctioned most of his remaining stock on 10 July 2012. Wyld had sold his one Blake drawing to the Metropolitan Museum of Art shortly before his death,See The Resurrection or The Last Trumpet, Blake 45.4 (spring 2012): 110. For illus. of recto and verso and comments, see Martin Butlin, “A Blake Drawing Rediscovered and Redated,” Blake 34.1 (summer 2000): cover, 22-24. but the auction included numerous works by Blake’s circle and followers. These are listed below under each artist’s name.
The auction market for important works by Blake concluded in December with the “Enoch” lithograph (illus. 15) formerly in the collection of Edward Croft-Murray (1907-80), keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum from 1954 to 1973. This is one of four known impressions and one of only two remaining in private hands at the time of this auction. The verso bears an important inscription by George Cumberland describing the way Blake modified the lithographic process. Unfortunately, Cumberland used a very wet ink that soaked through to the recto and stained the area above the central figure’s head. Given this show-through and the other condition issues described in the caption to illus. 15, I thought the print was overestimated at £100,000-150,000. My prophetic powers failed once again; “Enoch” fetched a hammer price of £170,000 (£205,250 including the buyer’s premium) to a dealer on the telephone representing an American institution. I believe that this is the second highest price for any single print by Blake, exceeded only by the $3.9 million achieved by the large color print of The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child (Butlin #324) sold at auction in 2004. I suspect that this is also a record price for a lithograph by a British artist.
The year of all sales and catalogues in the following lists is 2012 unless indicated otherwise. Most reports about auction catalogues are based on the online versions. Coverage of regional auctions is selective. Dates for dealers’ online catalogues are the dates accessed, not the dates of publication. Works offered online by dealers and previously listed in any one of the last three sales reviews are not repeated here. Most of the auction houses add their purchaser’s surcharge to the hammer price in their price lists. These net amounts are given here, following the official price lists. The value-added tax levied against the buyer’s surcharge in Britain is not included. Late 2012 sales will be covered in the 2013 review. I am grateful for help in compiling this review to G. E. Bentley, Jr., Nancy Bialler, David Bindman, Calvin D. Brown, Mark Crosby, Stephen Eisenman, Louis Girling, Jr., Judith Guston, Erin Jue, Richard Lloyd, Nicholas Lott, Hope Mayo, Patrick Murphy, Alan Parker, Max Reed, Ann Vershbow, Joseph Viscomi, and John Windle. My special thanks go to Alexander Gourlay for his generosity in keeping me abreast of eBay auctions. Once again, Sarah Jones’s editorial expertise and John Sullivan’s electronic imaging have been invaluable.
|AH ||Abbott and Holder, London |
|BB ||G. E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Books (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1977). Plate numbers and copy designations for Blake’s illuminated books and commercial book illustrations follow BB. |
|BBS ||G. E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Books Supplement (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1995) |
|Bennett ||Shelley M. Bennett, Thomas Stothard: The Mechanisms of Art Patronage in England circa 1800 (Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1988) |
|BG ||Bloomsbury auctions, Godalming |
|BHL ||Bonhams auctions, London |
|BHNY ||Bonhams auctions, New York |
|BHO ||Bonhams auctions, Oxford |
|BL ||Bloomsbury auctions, London |
BR(2) ||G. E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Records, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2004) |
|Butlin ||Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1981) |
|cat(s). ||catalogue(s) |
|CB ||Robert N. Essick, William Blake’s Commercial Book Illustrations (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1991) |
|CL ||Christie’s auctions, London |
|CNY ||Christie’s auctions, New York |
|Coxhead ||A. C. Coxhead, Thomas Stothard, R.A. (London: Bullen, 1906) |
|CSK ||Christie’s auctions, South Kensington |
|DL ||David Lay auctions, Penzance |
|DW ||Dominic Winter auctions, South Cerney, Gloucestershire |
|DY ||Doyle auctions, New York |
The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, newly rev. ed. (New York: Anchor–Random House, 1988) |
|EB ||eBay online auctions |
|GB ||Galerie Bassenge auctions, Berlin |
|GO ||Gorringes auctions, Lewes, East Sussex |
|GP ||Grosvenor Prints, London |
|illus. ||illustration(s), illustrated |
|pl(s). ||plate(s) |
|SK ||Skinner auctions, Boston |
|SL ||Sotheby’s auctions, London |
|SNY ||Sotheby’s auctions, New York |
|SP ||Robert N. Essick, The Separate Plates of William Blake: A Catalogue (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983) |
|st(s). ||state(s) of an engraving, etching, or lithograph |
|Swann ||Swann auctions, New York |
|WD ||Whyte’s auctions, Dublin |
|Weinglass ||D. H. Weinglass, Prints and Engraved Illustrations by and after Henry Fuseli (Aldershot: Scolar P, 1994) |
|# ||auction lot or catalogue item number |
1. For Children: The Gates of Paradise
, pl. 15. Inscribed “13” lower left and “Fear & Hope are __ Vision” centered below the design. Etching, possibly with a few touches of engraving, pictorial image 7.3 x 6.6 cm., platemark 8.1 x 7.2 cm., 2nd
st., datable to 1793. Laid paper without watermark, leaf 8.5 x 7.4 cm., chain lines running vertically 2.75 cm. apart. Provenance: private collection, England; sold in a mixed lot at a Rosebery’s auction, London, fall 2011, to the print dealer Nicholas Lott of Larkhall Fine Art, Bath; acquired by Essick 30 Dec. 2011. Lott has not been able to obtain any further information about the history of ownership. Click to show more.
In the 1st st. of the pl., the background behind the hovering figure is hatched with lines rising from right to left. This area has been changed into dense crosshatching in this 2nd st. The inscription reads “Fear or Hope are __ Vision” in the 1st st.; “or” is replaced with an ampersand in the 2nd st. The area where the number “13” is printed lower left in the 2nd st. shows only fragments of printing, and may have been abraded, in the only known impression of the 1st st., present in copy A of For Children. Blake added the number in pen and ink further to the left in copy A. The 2nd sts. of all other pls. in For Children include a 1793 imprint, but the space between the inscription and the lower edge of the copperplate was insufficient to contain the imprint on pl. 15. The 2nd st. is present in For Children copies B, D, E, and probably C (not seen; last recorded in the collection of Lucinda Collins, New York). Copies A, B, D, and E of For Children are on wove paper. The laid paper of the print reproduced here suggests that it may be a one-off impression pulled by Blake in 1793 to check his 2nd st. revisions, since he is not known to have used such paper to print complete copies of the work.
When Blake converted For Children into For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, he extensively revised this pl. in 3 stages, c. 1818-26, in accord with his new sense of adding contrasting effects of illumination and darkness to etchings and engravings executed years earlier. In the 3rd st. of pl. 15, the 1stFor the Sexes st., present in copy B, Blake burnished an aura of light around the head and torso of the hovering figure. Other areas have been darkened with additional lines, including the beard and body of the corpse, the clothing of the woman behind the bed and the child on the right, and the back of the man in the foreground lower left. Oddly, the right hand and cuff at the wrist of the corpse have vanished, replaced by long horizontal lines defining his gown. The facial features of the child furthest right have been more clearly defined in ways that hint at surprise or wonder; the woman’s features, particularly her eyebrows, have been augmented. Bold vertical lines added to the background now suggest a curtain rather than an unadorned wall. Some of the letters in the caption, particularly the left vertical of “H,” may have been cut more deeply.
Illumination around the hovering figure has been extended in the 4th st. (copies C and D of For the Sexes) and now includes lines of radiance right and left. Burnishing has created 2 other highlights, right and left of the foreground man’s right leg. Further hatching strokes now darken the background, the floor lower right, the legs of the bed, the back and left leg of the foreground man, and a patch on the floor above and to the right of his right foot. A stippled line now extends down his lower right leg. A few short lines have been added to the hovering spirit’s hair where it falls along the back of his head. The beard of the corpse is more distinctly defined and rudimentary outlines of his right hand and the cuff at the wrist, both present in the 1st and 2nd sts., have been returned to the pl. The face of the child immediately right of the woman has been turned from right profile to forward. His mouth is open in wonder. All 5 faces are augmented with short lines and stipple to increase their expressiveness.
Blake continued to supplement the 4th st. revisions in the 5th (final) st., found in copies E-I, K, and N of For the Sexes, and in a separate impression of pl. 15 in the British Museum, accession no. 1894,0612.29. The letters of the caption have been further strengthened and printed more darkly. This additional work is most evident on the right vertical of “H.” The hovering figure’s aura has been reduced in extent, particularly on the right, but intensified around his head, under his left upper arm, and left of his right elbow. The background upper left, the floor lower right, the back and right leg of the foreground man, the side of the bed right of his right knee and the right end of the bed, the feet of the corpse, and the legs of the hovering spirit have been darkened with hatching and crosshatching. Two lines now define the hem or cuff of breeches or tights just above the foreground man’s right knee. The faces of the woman and children are more detailed; the former now has a wrinkled brow and the latter have larger, more open mouths with clearly defined lips.
The 5 sts. of pl. 15 accord with the 5 print runs of The Gates of Paradise, 2 of For Children and 3 of For the Sexes. These printings are assigned approximate dates in BB 187, 197: early spring 1793, late spring 1793, 1818, 1825, and 1827-28, the last including some posthumous impressions. Each time Blake printed the work, he altered at least some of the pls. BB 197 places copy E of For the Sexes in the second (1825) printing of that work, but it should probably be included in the third (1827-28) printing with other copies containing the 5th st. of pl. 15. For the Sexes copy A is untraced. BB 197 groups it with the 1818 watermark and printing date of copy B. If that is indeed accurate, then pl. 15 in copy A is probably in the 3rd st. Copies J and L of For the Sexes lack pl. 15. Nicholas Lott tells me that copy M of For the Sexes, dispersed in the late 1960s by the London print dealer Christopher Mendez (BBS 79), is a group of Muir facsimiles. A complete and detailed cat. of all sts. of all pls. in The Gates of Paradise has yet to be written.
Pl. 15 addresses the difference between material and spiritual vision, a theme central to the entire series of emblem-like designs. Chauncey Brewster Tinker identifies the hovering figure as God and compares the design to the vision of God in the whirlwind in the pl. numbered 13 among the Job engravings—see Tinker, Painter and Poet (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1938) 113. Most interpreters, however, describe this figure as the ghost or spirit of the dead man lying stiffly supine on the bed. This majority view is substantiated by the insubstantial nature of the bearded apparition. The line defining his left shin extends across the right foot of the corpse, yet we can see the toes of that foot and the upper portion of the corpse’s left foot. These appendages would be obscured if we could not see through the spirit’s left leg. Further, we can see the upper edge of the board on the right end of the bed that would be invisible if we could not see through the spirit’s left ankle. The hovering figure is “the Immortal Man that cannot Die” in Blake’s reference to the pl. numbered “13” in “The Keys of the Gates,” the explanatory verses he added to the series in For the Sexes (E 268-69). Analogues for pl. 15 more apt than the Job engraving are “To Tirzah,” in which “Whate’er is Born of Mortal Birth” is “Raised a Spiritual Body” (E 30), and “The Death of the Good Old Man” among Blake’s illus. to Robert Blair’s The Grave, another design picturing both the mortal and the immortal body.
The man half-kneeling in the foreground reacts to the vision with amazement and perhaps fear. The fingers of his right hand separate and radiate outward; the toes of his right foot may be curled. The woman behind the bed looks up in wonder. The faces of the 2 children right of the woman express a similar emotion only in later sts. of the pl. This would appear to be a family group, but their individual identities are uncertain. Archibald G. B. Russell refers to the kneeling man as the woman’s “husband” (Russell, The Engravings of William Blake [London: Grant Richards, 1912] 64). Russell, however, fails to see the body on the bed, stating that “a young [sic?] woman sits up upon a bed of sickness,” and he may be wrong about the kneeling man as well. He looks a good deal younger than the woman, particularly in the last 2 sts., and may be the dead man’s “eldest son” (David V. Erdman, The Illuminated Blake [Garden City: Anchor P—Doubleday, 1974] 275). Geoffrey Keynes describes the group as “a man and his wife and two children seated beside the deathbed of a father or a friend” (Keynes, commentary in Blake, The Gates of Paradise [London: Trianon P, 1968] 1: 18).
The hovering spirit points upward to heaven with a finger on his left hand and down and to the right with his right hand, probably to direct the family toward a burial plot for the man’s corpse. Taken together, these gestures indicate the different destinies of spiritual and material bodies. The right-hand gesture also leads the reader of The Gates of Paradise to the next 2 engravings in the series, “The Traveller” who “hasteth in the Evening” of life in pl. 16 toward “Death’s Door” in pl. 17 (E 266-67).
The caption refers to the “Fear” of death and “Hope” for an afterlife; the former may be part of the family’s understandable but mistaken response to a vision proving that the latter is not in vain. “Vision” in Blake’s writings is closely associated with imagination: “Vision or Imagination is a Representation of what Eternally Exists” (A Vision of the Last Judgment, E 554). The caption links together universal human emotions and the creative activities of the artist that reveal spiritual realities beyond the material veil. Yet the operative verb, “are,” indicates more than “leads to” or “causes.” The internal emotions are one with the external vision; both are products of mental acts. This is not the only passage in Blake’s writings in which process becomes identity: “… he became what he beheld / He became what he was doing …” (The Four Zoas, E 338).
The preliminary pencil sketch for the design on p. 61 of Blake’s Notebook (Butlin #201.61) appears above a related inscription, “What we hope we see” (E 801). This caption, like the engraved version, also underscores the unity of inner (“hope”) and outer (“what we … see”) realities, but may also play upon another reading of these 5 words: this vision of the immortal man is what we hope to see at the death of the mortal body. Glue spots indicate that Blake very probably affixed thin paper to the drawing and traced it for transfer to a copperplate for The Gates of Paradise. He did not, however, reverse the design onto the copper, since right and left in impressions are the reverse of the drawing. The same basic composition also appears in a large wash drawing datable to c. 1780-85 and inscribed “The spirit of a just man newly departed appearing to his mourning family” (Butlin #135). This title would appear to be in Blake’s hand and supports the identification of the hovering figure as the dead man’s spirit. The woman’s right hand (left in the print) is pictured in both drawings; her fingers are spread apart in a gesture similar to the foreground man’s in all 3 versions. The dead man’s face is clearly pictured only in the wash drawing. Click to show less.
2. “The Blossom” (BB
pl. 11), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Collection of Adam Fuss, New York. Relief and white-line etching with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “10” top right in pen and ink. Image 10.7 x 7.2 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.9 x 14.6 cm. Marginal stains from an earlier mat and browning at the edges of the leaf, particularly the top. Printed in gray-black ink and hand colored, probably c. 1811 when Blake printed Songs of Innocence
copy S, the Innocence
pls. of combined Songs
copy S, and Milton
copies A-C in that color (see the caption to illus. 3
for more on this printing). Several letters, including all those in the title, have been overwritten in pen and brown ink. Blake used a similar pink wash to color the giant plant in copy F of Songs of Innocence and of Experience
and a purple-pink hue in copies A and L, all datable to the mid-1790s. The plant is colored gray-blue in Songs of Innocence
copy G (1789), pink and gray in Songs of Innocence
copy O (c. 1802), highlighted in blue in copy T of the combined Songs
(1818), and tinted pink and blue in copy V of Songs of Innocence and of Experience
(1821). The adult angel’s right wing is also blue in copy V. Blake colored the plant green in most early copies, but emphasized its flame-like characteristics with yellow, orange, and red tinting in late copies (for example, W, Y, Z, and AA of the combined Songs
, all datable to 1825-26). The auction cat. (SNY, 26 April) states that the coloring includes “shell gold” (that is, powdered gold suspended in water and a gum or glue binder, applied by hand) and “gouache.” The presence of the latter medium is indicated by the chalky appearance of the colors in the leaf extending below the text and the base of the main stem, lower right.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
#43. “The Lamb,” BB
pl. 8, numbered “7” top right. $40,625 to John Windle acting for the Victoria University Library, Toronto; estimate $35,000-45,000. E. J. Pratt Library, Victoria University, Blake Suppl. no. 363.
3. “The Lamb” (BB
pl. 8), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Victoria University Library, Toronto. Relief etching with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “7” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.6 x 7.6 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.7 x 14.6 cm. Light marginal stains from an earlier mat and browning at the edges of the leaf, particularly at the top. Printed in gray-black ink and hand colored, probably c. 1811 when Blake printed Songs of Innocence
copy S, the Innocence
pls. of combined Songs
copy S, and Milton
copies A-C in that color. Much of the text has been overwritten in pen and brown ink, very probably to compensate for weak printing of the letters. Blake extended the grassy ground and shadows slightly below the lower edge of the pl. and extended the thatched roof of the cottage to the right edge of the pl. with washes and 2 horizontal lines. The cottage does not reach beyond the sapling in the etched image. The auction cat. (SNY, 26 April) states that the coloring includes “shell gold.”
Blake may have printed “The Lamb” and “The Blossom” (illus. 2) c. 1811 specifically to augment his stock of Innocence impressions and thereby have a supply sufficient to create a complete copy—presumably the original condition of copy R/Y. Because he already had his press ready for printing and ink available for producing the other illuminated books in gray-black ink noted above, it would have taken very little additional effort to print these two pls.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
#44. “Laughing Song,” BB
pl. 15, numbered “14” top right. $80,500 to an anonymous private collector on the telephone; estimate $40,000-50,000.
4. “Laughing Song” (BB
pl. 15), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Anonymous private collection. Relief etching with hand coloring, numbered “14” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.2 x 6.6 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.7 x 15.0 cm. Light marginal stains from an earlier mat, browning at the edges of the leaf, particularly at the top, and stains around the top and bottom stabholes. Printed in dark reddish-brown ink, possibly in 1795 when Blake printed Songs of Innocence and of Experience
copy O in a similarly heavy and wet ink of that color. The ink in all other pls. in copy R/Y was drier, more reticulated, and applied with a lighter touch. The tinting in the text area accords with what we see throughout copy R/Y, but the coloring of the design above the text is distinctly different. The colors are deeper, bolder, less translucent, and closer to primary tints than the pastel tones on other pls. The design was probably colored c. 1795, but the transparent washes in the text area could have been added c. 1811 when the pl. was numbered and included in copy R/Y. The highlighting in gold on the figures’ hair, the title letters, and the bird to the left of the title was probably applied c. 1811. The auction cat. (SNY, 26 April) states that the coloring includes “gouache.”
The upper curve of the letter “s,” 2nd word in the final line of text, shows a small patch of opaque white; see the caption to illus. 7 for discussion.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
#45. “The Ecchoing Green,” BB
pls. 6-7, numbered “5” and “6” top right. $116,500 to the dealer James Cummins acting for the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Illinois; estimate $70,000-100,000.
5. “The Ecchoing Green,” 1st
pl. 6), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Illinois. Relief etching with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “5” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.0 x 7.0 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.0 x 14.2 cm. Light marginal stains from an earlier mat and browning at the edges of the leaf. Printed in light brown ink, probably c. 1802, and probably colored (at least in part) at that time. Copy O of Songs of Innocence
(University of Texas, Austin) was printed in the same session using the same paper and ink. Hand coloring and numbering not finished until c. 1811. Blake has drawn short horizontal lines below and within the hoop right of the 1st
stanza to indicate the ground on which the boy plays. He has also added a vine lower right; it loops over a poorly printed part of the vine above and extends over the catchword, “They.” The title letters have been overwritten in dark brown ink. The auction cat. (SNY, 26 April) states that the coloring includes “shell gold.”
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
6. “The Ecchoing Green,” 2nd
pl. 7), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Illinois. Relief etching, possibly with touches of white-line etching, and with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “6” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.0 x 7.0 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.9 x 14.8 cm. with a BUTTA[NSHAW] (probably BUTTANSHAW 1802) watermark along the lower edge of the leaf. Light marginal stains from an earlier mat and browning at the edges of the leaf. Printed in light brown ink, probably c. 1802, and probably colored (at least in part) at that time. Hand coloring and numbering not finished until c. 1811. In the etched image, the chin of the boy in the vine on the right, who is handing a bunch of grapes to a girl below, is behind his hunched shoulder. In this impression, Blake has drawn the boy’s full face in front of his shoulder. The auction cat. (SNY, 26 April) states that the coloring includes “shell gold.”
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
#46. “The Little Boy Lost,” BB
pl. 13, numbered “12” top right. $59,375 to John Windle acting for Essick; estimate $10,000-20,000. See the caption to illus. 7 for the reasons the auctioneer placed an estimate on this lot lower than the others.
7. “The Little Boy Lost” (BB
pl. 13), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Essick collection. Relief and white-line etching with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “12” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.2 x 7.3 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.7 x 14.6 cm. Printed in light brown ink, probably c. 1802, and probably colored (at least in part) at that time. Hand coloring and numbering not finished until c. 1811. Blake overwrote all but a few letters in dark and light brown inks. The boy’s hat, simply etched in the copperplate, has been emphasized with black pen and ink lines. Blake gave similar attention to the tree’s roots, only suggested in the etched image. A thin black pen and ink line below the child’s feet indicates a shadow cast by the illumination on the left. The face of the angel right of the 2nd
stanza is in profile facing right in the etched image, but has been drawn in three-quarters view in this impression. The general coloring of the design above the text, including the long but weak beams of light radiating from the illuminated “vapour” on the left, is similar to the impressions in copy O of Songs of Innocence
(c. 1802) and in copy V of Songs of Innocence and of Experience
(1821). There are no beams or rays of light in the etched image. The duck, etched on the copperplate above the “y” of “Boy” in the title, has almost disappeared in this copy Y impression due to light inking. The boy’s hair and the tree trunk show minute touches of shell gold. Erin Jue, paper conservator at the Huntington Library, suggests that these few grains of gold may have been transferred to this impression from residue left on the brush after a more generous, and hence visually significant, application of gold on other pls. Click to show more.
A condition report, not published in the printed auction cat. of 26 April but available on Sotheby’s web site, includes the following caveat: “There are corrections in the text which are not entirely consistent with the hand-retouchings characteristic of Blake’s own work. It is difficult to be certain whether this portion of the plate was damaged and touched up by a later hand, or whether it was indeed by Blake himself.” Sotheby’s cautious statement was motivated by the unusual presence of opaque white pigment, possibly lead white, surrounding letters in the text. This material is most evident around the 1st 2 letters of the 2nd and 3rd words in line 1 and in an area below “you” in the same line and between it and the next word, extending toward the bird flying above the 1st letter of “going.” Dabs of white are also visible throughout the 1st half of each line in the 2nd stanza. In 2 areas—the left side of the vertical of the “h” of “child” and the right side of the “e” of “wet,” both in the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza—the opaque white intrudes upon the letters, partly covering their edges. There are as well 4 droplets of white over part of the lower reaches of the 1st “g” in “going” in the 1st line of the text. Thus, the white pigment must have been applied after the letters were overwritten in pen and ink.
The opaque white was added with considerable skill and attention to detail. For example, the terminal letter of “The,” 1st word of the 2nd stanza, was touched with white to create the space within the upper loop. Most of this work becomes clearly discernable only under magnification. Blake may have added the white to increase the contrast between the letters and their surrounding areas. It is of course possible that the opaque pigment was applied by someone else after the print left Blake’s hands, perhaps even following the fire that reportedly injured Songs of Innocence copy R/Y in the 1890s. The reason for such intervention, however, is far from clear. There is no evidence of staining or any other damage to the paper underlying the opaque white when the leaf is viewed through a strong backing light. There are several light brown stains on the verso, but these do not correlate with the white patches on the recto. See also illus. 4 and 8 and their captions for more applications of opaque white. Both “The Little Boy Lost” and “The Little Boy Found” were inspected under a Meiji binocular microscope with a magnification range of 7x to 45x. An enlargement of approximately 15x proved to be the most useful for locating and studying the white areas. Click to show less.
#47. “The Little Boy Found,” BB
pl. 14, numbered “13” top right. $68,500 to John Windle acting for Essick; estimate $35,000-45,000.
8. “The Little Boy Found” (BB
pl. 14), Songs of Innocence
copy Y. Essick collection. Relief and white-line etching with pen and ink outlining and hand coloring, numbered “13” top right in pen and ink. Image 11.7 x 7.2 cm. (see enlargement
), leaf of wove paper 20.8 x 14.6 cm. Printed in light brown ink, probably c. 1802, and probably colored (at least in part) at that time. Hand coloring and numbering not finished until c. 1811. Although there is far less opaque white pigment than in “The Little Boy Lost,” the space between the 1st
2 letters of the title and the area within the looping lower element of the 2nd
letter bear streaks of that color, possibly intended to mask a flaw of some sort (see the caption to illus. 7
). Two droplets also appear above and within the 1st
letter (“H”) in line 5 of the poem, although these could be accidental spills. Tinting with light brown wash in the space between the design and the edges of the copperplate forms a frame on 3 sides of the design. Brown stains slightly mar the lower abdomen of Christ, the adult figure in the design above the text. Blake has given an unusual amount of attention to the outlining of Christ’s left thumb and fingers where they grasp the boy’s right elbow. The adult’s hand is apparently under the child’s arm, for the fingers extend upwards with the thumb looping around from above and extending downwards. Christ’s hand, fingers pointing down, holds the boy’s arm from above in copy Y of the combined Songs
, datable to 1825; the hand position is uncertain in most copies.
The roots of the tree on the right have been emphasized with wash and pen and ink outlines. The background landscape is more open and more illuminated than in any other impression known to me. Although still crepuscular in overall tone, this impression and the one in Songs of Innocence copy O (c. 1802) are less distinctly night scenes than others. The leafy canopy of a dense forest rises behind the boy; 2 tree trunks are visible below his left arm. The sky above the boy’s head includes 2 arching bands of light between clouds. The figure hovering right of the text lacks a nose in the etched image, supplied in this impression with pen and ink outlining. This figure’s billowing gown, all 3 large tree trunks, and the boy’s hair are tinted with shell gold, either mixed with other colors or applied thinly on top of them.
Drawings and Paintings
A male wearing breeches, a shirt, and a sandal on his right foot (left not shown) sits facing forward on a stone (?) step or plinth. His thick hair, prominent arched eyebrows, moustache, and short beard are darkly inked; his expression is solemn. His right hand rests, palm down and fingers spread, on the step. He points with his left index finger at a tablet or piece of paper, lower right, bearing a few squiggles indicating writing. A round object at its left (presumably lower) edge may be a wax seal. A nude, or partly nude, youth of uncertain gender, possibly a long-haired male, kneels on the floor between the bearded man’s legs. He faces right, with eyes partly closed or perhaps looking down at the writing, but his shoulders are twisted away from the viewer and his raised hands rest upon the bearded man’s shoulders. The combination of motifs, particularly the tablet or paper, suggests a specific subject, but I have not been able to determine it. Any suggestions?
The attribution to Blake is far from certain. At first glance, the drawing, particularly the head of the bearded man, does not shout “Blake.” The same can be said for a somewhat similar pen and ink drawing, Charon, Copy from the Antique (Butlin #178 recto, dated to c. 1779-80?). Without Tatham’s inscription vouching that the work is by Blake, I would be a bit dubious about Charon; see also A Male Nude with an Urn, Copy from the Antique (Butlin #179A). Several characteristics, however, associate the drawing from the Tulk album with Blake’s stylistic habits. If we “attend to the Hands & Feet” (A Vision of the Last Judgment, E 560) and the musculature of the youth, Blake’s own hand begins to emerge. Indeed, attribution would be more certain if one simply ignores the bearded head.
9. Harpers and Other Drawings
. Pencil, leaf 20.4 x 24.6 cm. (see enlargement
). Datable to 1792-93. For the verso, see illus. 10
. See the caption to illus. 12
for information on the album from which this leaf was removed.
The main, central drawing of a man and woman playing harps and perhaps singing might be Job and his wife after their restoration to prosperity, as in the final pl. of Blake’s Job engravings, but there are reasons to question this identification. Even in the earliest Job designs, such as Job, His Wife and His Friends: The Complaint of Job (Butlin #162, dated to c. 1785), Job has long hair, an exceptionally long beard, and is clearly old. The man in this drawing is middle-aged, has short and tightly curled hair, and a short beard. Playing harps does not necessarily indicate a Job subject; see, for example, A Harper and Other Sketches (the verso of Butlin #81, dated to c. 1785; for illus. and discussion, see Blake 39.1 [summer 2005]: 44-47). A Tiriel wash drawing untraced since 1863, Har and Heva Playing Harps (Butlin #198.5, dated to c. 1789), might be related, although the age of Har and Heva in other Tiriel designs matches Job and his wife rather than the couple in this pencil drawing. Click to show more.
The recto bears several other sketches, apparently unrelated to the central drawing:
• Far left, a youthful male nude with curly hair, facing forward but looking down and to the right. He stands in front of a stone wall(?) and leans with his right elbow on a shovel. His lower right arm extends behind his back. An almost identical figure, except for slight differences in the angle of the head, appears on the general title page in Blake’s watercolor illus. to Edward Young’s Night Thoughts (Butlin #330.2, dated to c. 1795-97). As in the Night Thoughts design, this may be a grave-digger in an elegant pose reminiscent of classical sculpture. Blake probably referred back to this pencil drawing when executing the watercolor.
• Above the central drawing, a pair of overlapping figures, probably female, hovering horizontally or flying to the right. The front figure extends her right arm in front of her; small objects or the droplets of a liquid descend diagonally from her right hand. The similar motif of a sky-borne figure pouring down a liquid appears in Visions of the Daughters of Albion pl. 4. In the pencil sketch, the figure in back extends her left arm; cloud outlines appear above and to the right. The pair is generally similar to (but not a direct preliminary for) the angels at the top of Blake’s design for the title page to Night the First among his Night Thoughts watercolors (Butlin #330.6), pl. 1 among the engravings (BB #515). Unlike this pencil drawing, the Night Thoughts angels are winged and nothing drops from their hands.
• To the right of the central harpists, a standing female(?) seen in right profile, leaning back slightly with her right arm extended upward to touch or hold a descending child or putto in left profile, his left hand touching the adult’s right shoulder. The figures appear to be kissing. This drawing is probably the direct preliminary for the same motif in Blake’s relief-etched color print “A Dream of Thiralatha” (SP IX), first executed as a pl. for America, 1793, but not used in the illuminated book. In this sketch, the putto’s legs are together, with the right calf and foot just peeking out from behind the left leg. In the print, his right leg is bent at the knee and his left leg extended. Right and left in this sketch are the reverse of impressions of the color print and thus the figures have the same orientation as the design on the copperplate.
• Far right, a standing child seen from behind, reaching upward with both arms to touch or hold a descending child, also seen from behind. They may be kissing. A few sketchy lines above and right of the figures hint at clouds. This may be a rejected variant for the “Thiralatha” design.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd. Click to show less.
10. Preliminary sketches for America
, the verso of Harpers and Other Drawings
). Pencil, leaf 20.4 x 24.6 cm. (see enlargement
). Datable to 1792-93. See the caption to illus. 12
for information on the album from which this leaf was removed. Click to show more.
The leaf bears small sketches of 15 figures. Most, possibly all, are preliminary sketches for motifs in America and Europe, as follows:
• Lower right, two figures, likely a male (right) and woman (left—note the indications of female breasts) fleeing to the right over the outline of a hilly landscape, probably a variant design for the man and woman lower left in America pl. 5. In this sketch, the figure on the left has her arms bent at the elbows and raised over her head; her companion has his arms raised at roughly 135 degrees. In the relief etching, the male has his arms down, with his right hand apparently holding the hand of a child; the female raises her left arm vertically and her right forearm and hand are visible left of her lower torso.
• Top and center, a male holding a contracted figure on his shoulders, a female (note the carefully delineated vagina) with a sword, a male holding scales with the outlines of clouds extending above and below him, and an upside-down male within the upper loop of a spiraling serpent, all for America pl. 7. In the etching, the figure holding a sword may be male, prominent flames have been added to the weapon, the cloud is differently configured, and the serpent’s head is in a slightly altered position. The placement of the figures in relationship to each other is retained, but with right and left reversed in impressions.
• Center right, a male facing down and clutching his head, for America pl. 7. The sketched and etched versions are almost identical.
• Upper right quadrant, another sketch of the man clutching his head, for America pl. 7, accompanied by two other figures, or variants of the same figure, also clutching their heads. These may all be Blake’s experiments with various postures in preparation for the relief etching.
• Lower left quadrant, an upside-down, descending male with a large weight attached to him, for Europe pl. 4. In the sketch, the man’s legs are bent sharply at the knees and his genitals are clearly pictured. In the illuminated book, his legs are turned to the left with his right thigh covering his lower torso.
• Lower left, a falling female. See illus. 11.
• Lower margin, a series of three figures above the outline of a rocky landscape. From left to right, these are a female with long hair, lunging and reaching dramatically to the left; an upside-down male seen from behind, arms extended downward with hands resting on a boulder or small hill, right leg extended upward and left leg bent at the knee, basically similar to The Book of Urizen pl. 14; a female figure facing forward with prominent breasts and a large belly, arms horizontal and legs bent at the knees and spread apart. This last figure may be pregnant; compare to the woman giving birth in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell pl. 3. None of these figures is present in America or Europe, but they were probably executed in preparation for those books.
For each figure used in America and Europe, right and left are the reverse of impressions of the illuminated books and thus the motifs in this drawing have the same orientation as the designs on the copperplates. These drawings reinforce the interrelatedness of America and Europe, compositionally and thematically. For a leaf of pencil drawings for America of similar size and date, see Sketches for “America” and Other Books (Butlin #226), illus. and discussed in Blake 45.4 (spring 2012): 111-12.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd. Click to show less.
11. Preliminary sketches for America
), detail of pencil sketch lower left, approximately 3.7 x 3.2 cm. A falling female, seen from behind, with legs spread apart and bent sharply at the knees. The creature above her rump is exceedingly odd and thus invites speculation. Joseph Viscomi has suggested in correspondence that this is a goat, facing forward, left front hoof delineated, with symmetrically curving horns, a bifurcated forelock, floppy ears, bulging eyes, and a prominent muzzle. Is this a scene of interspecies coitus or rape? “The lust of the goat” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
, E 36) has been the animal’s main emblematic characteristic since antiquity. As a symbol of the zodiacal sign of Capricorn, the goat is sometimes given a fish-like body with 2 twisting tails (see, for example, the impresa
of Cosimo de’ Medici reproduced in James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art
, rev. ed. [New York: Icon Editions, 1974] 139). This tradition may account for the 2 tails in this drawing, 1 possibly wrapped around the woman’s left thigh and clearly visible right of her left knee, and another extending around her face and head and trailing along her back. Viscomi further suggests that Blake first drew a phallus penetrating the woman, then transformed it into a goat. This may account for the columnar shape of the animal’s body. The sexual implications of the design anticipate some of Blake’s drawings in the Four Zoas
manuscript, begun c. 1796. The ovoid form above and to the left of the descending figure’s head remains mysterious. Not used in America
, but probably executed in preparation for those books.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd.
12. Parental Affection, or the Meeting of a Family in Heaven
. Watercolor on laid paper, 14.3 x 9.2 cm. The title is apparently a recent invention, probably by the dealer Lowell Libson or one of his unnamed consultants. See illus. 14
for the verso. When mounted in an album (see provenance below), the leaf to which the watercolor was attached was inscribed in pencil “Parents meeting.” Blake based the design on an emblem drawing in his Notebook, p. 41 (illus. 13
). The major differences between the two versions are the addition of more background trees and the elaboration of the Gothic architecture in the watercolor. The date of the Notebook emblems is not certain, but they have generally been dated to c. 1790-92; some were engraved and published in For Children: The Gates of Paradise
of 1793. Click to show more.
This watercolor is similar in style and mood to the wash drawings illustrating Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life (Butlin #244, dated c. 1791). A date of c. 1790-92 seems reasonable for this watercolor, although far from certain. The work shows some similarities to, but is more carefully executed than, a few drawings dated by Butlin to the late 1780s, including An Enthroned Old Man Offering Two Children to Heaven (Butlin #88) and Age Teaching Youth (Butlin #91). Parental Affection was advertised by Libson and reproduced in Art Newspaper no. 236 (June 2012); see also brief comments and illus. in Anon., “Forthcoming Events,” British Art Journal 13.1 (spring 2012): 96, Huon Mallalieu, “Drawn to Success,” Country Life 206.26 (27 June 2012): 112-13, Richard Green, “Master Drawings,” Burlington Magazine 154 (Sept. 2012): 651, and Mallalieu, “From the Zoo to the Big Apple,” Country Life 206.40 (2 Oct. 2012): 114-15. The work is in a remarkably fine state of preservation, the colors fresh and unfaded.
The reference in the title to “the Meeting of a Family in Heaven” implies a connection with Blake’s illus. to Robert Blair’s The Grave and perhaps a source for the subject in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. The latter would be appropriate for a work given or sold to C. A. Tulk, a Swedenborgian. The naturalistic landscape background, however, makes a heavenly setting unlikely. For an illus. of Blake’s “Meeting of a Family in Heaven” in the 1808 ed. of Blair’s poem and a discussion of its relationship to Swedenborg’s writings, see Blake 43.4 (spring 2010): 124-25.
Provenance: Probably acquired directly from Blake by Charles Augustus Tulk (1786-1849), although Blake’s wife, Catherine (after her husband’s death in 1827), or Tulk’s friend John Flaxman are possible sources; Tulk’s daughter Louisa Susanna Tulk (1819-48?), who mounted this watercolor in an album; by inheritance to her husband, James Peard Ley (1807-85); by inheritance to his son, James Verchild Ley; by inheritance to his son, James Richard Ley, who died in Feb. 2010; the estate of James Richard Ley (sole heir his daughter, Judith Penelope Ley, executors John Paul Hindle and Judith Penelope Ley); the entire album sold by the estate spring or early summer 2012 to the London dealer Lowell Libson Ltd. for an undisclosed price. This watercolor, or the leaf of recto/verso drawings reproduced here as illus. 9-10, might be the “drawing” which Nancy Flaxman, in a letter to her husband, John Flaxman, of July 1816, states was “bought … of him” (i.e., bought from Blake) by “our Friend,” possibly C. A. Tulk (BR 326).
The Tulk family album from which this watercolor was removed in 2012 contains 90 pp. of Whatman paper, leaves 22.0 x 27.0 cm., bound in calf, according to a representative of the Tulk estate. It included other works by Blake (see illus. 9-10, 14), Flaxman, and a good many drawings by other, probably Continental, artists.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd. Click to show less.
13. Blake’s Notebook, p. 41. Detail of the pencil emblem drawing, approximately 8.2 x 5.9 cm. Butlin #201.41. See the caption to illus. 12
Photo courtesy of the British Library.
14. Sisyphus Rolling the Stone up a Hill
. Pencil on leaf 14.3 x 9.2 cm., the verso of Parental Affection
). Although it seems unlikely that Blake would execute a rough sketch on the verso of a finished watercolor probably intended for sale or presentation, the vigorous style of this drawing suggests a slightly later date than the recto, possibly in the mid-1790s. See the caption to illus. 12
for information on the album from which this leaf was removed.
Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd.
Separate Plates and Plates in Series
15. “Enoch.” Modified lithograph, 21.7 x 31.0 cm., SP
impression 1B. Wove paper without watermark, leaf 23.8 x 33.1 cm. The pen and ink inscription by George Cumberland on the verso has bled through to the recto above the central figure’s head, on the hovering figures right and left, and in the top margin. Light damp staining top right corner, marginal tears extending into the image right top margin and upper left margin. The oval blemish, 1.2 x 0.8 cm., just below the center of the top framing line, is described in the auction cat. (CL, 6 Dec., #96) as “a made up paper loss”—that is, a hole in the printed leaf filled with another piece of paper. For discussion and illus. of the verso inscription, see Essick, “Blake’s ‘Enoch’ Lithograph,” Blake
14.4 (spring 1981): 180-84. The inscription is also transcribed and discussed in SP
Photo courtesy of Christie’s London.
16. “The Idle Laundress,” engraved by Blake after George Morland. Pictorial image including the framing lines 21.2 x 26.0 cm. Leaf of wove paper without watermark trimmed within the platemark to 24.5 x 28.9 cm. and with the imprint cut off. Color printed in black, brown, and blue inks and hand colored. Essick collection.
The only clear distinctions in the pl. itself between the 2nd st., published by J. R. Smith in 1788, and the 3rd st., published by H. Macklin in 1803, are the imprint and the amount of wear in the fine stipple. I suspect that this impression is in the 2nd st. The single impression of the 1st st. known to me, recorded in 1983 in the collection of John DeMarco, Saratoga, New York, is colored like this 2nd st. The quality and extent of the color printing and hand coloring in the 3rd st. are similar, but with several changes in palette. In 3rd-st. impressions I’ve seen, the laundress’s skirt is pale brown, the young thief’s jacket is dark brown, and his waistcoat is blue.
Letterpress Books with Engravings by and after Blake, Including Prints Extracted from Such Books
a picture of mongrel excellence; yet has such a repulsive appearance, that we doubt most of our fair readers will scarcely view it with pleasure, unless they should be well acquainted with Aunciente tapestrye, to enter into its merits. That it is the work of genius, no one will deny; it possesses all the truth, the costume, and manners of the times; and the artist is perhaps worthy of the highest commendation for his industry, research, and correctness; but for our parts, we feel ourselves so perfectly satisfied with the same subject, as treated by Stothard, that we wish not to possess a picture whose greatest merit seems to be an imitation of the arts in their degraded state. (344)
These comments indicate that the reviewer understood that Blake had integrated into his work features of style and format recalling (or reinventing) the pictorial arts of Chaucer’s time, yet the reviewer cannot accept such historical references because “the arts” were then in a “degraded state,” mockingly intimated by the faux-archaic spelling of “Aunciente
tapestrye.” The reviewer apparently found the painting disturbingly old fashioned, but Blake was ahead of his time in his attempt at historical accuracy and in the appreciation of medieval (or at least pre-Raphaelite) painting and tapestry. The reviewer “declines giving any criticism” of “pictures 323 and 324, by the same artist [Blake],” because they are “too sublime for our comprehension,” but labels them as “Fuselian” and “Angelesque” (344). The works displayed as 324 were “Detached Specimens of an original illuminated Poem, entitled ‘Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion’
” (Associated Painters 1812 cat., 24). The reference to “323” is apparently an error; that work was a view of “Avo on the Alva, in the Siera Estrulla, Portugal” by “J. Shetky” (1812 cat., 24). As BBS
350 suggests, the reviewer may have intended to reference 279 and/or 280, Blake’s The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth
and The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan
(1812 cat., 21; Butlin #651, 649).
17. W. Blake, Little Tom the Sailor, lithographic facsimile by William Muir, 1886. Detail of the headpiece printed in black ink, 11.2 x 16.2 cm., and the top margin. Inscribed in pen and brown ink “No 3 Wm Muir” upper left, this headpiece and the tailpiece hand colored in imitation of the British Museum copy of the original, full leaf of wove paper without watermark 60.3 x 23.0 cm. Essick collection. The only signed and numbered copy, and the only hand-colored copy, I have ever seen. According to the printed front wrapper of his 1887 facsimile of Europe, Muir states that his Little Tom is “from Mr. Gilchrist’s copy,” now untraced. The London book dealer Bernard Quaritch, distributor of Muir’s facsimiles, records the delivery from Muir of a “coloured” copy of Little Tom on 11 May 1925; see G. E. Bentley, Jr., “‘Blake … Had No Quaritch’: The Sale of William Muir’s Blake Facsimiles,” Blake 27.1 (summer 1993): 10. Quaritch’s cat. 401 of May 1926 offers as item 243 a Muir facsimile of Little Tom with “two illustrations coloured by hand from the copy in the British Museum” for £1.1s. This cat. dates the work to “1925,” apparently the date of coloring, possibly of printing, but not of original execution as a lithograph. The same entry appears in Quaritch’s Dec. 1926 cat. 405, item 256, 1929 cat. 427, item 248, and 1930 cat. 434, item 2065.
Blake’s Circle and Followers
18. Henry Fuseli. Fairy Mab
. Oil, 70.0 x 91.0 cm., datable to 1793. The design is based on a single line in Milton’s “L’Allegro”: “How Faery Mab
the junkets eat.” She seems to be enjoying her “junkets”—that is, sweet delicacies. The crescent in her elaborate coiffure associates her with moon goddesses, or at least with the nighttime setting of Milton’s description. Weinglass 350 (following Schiff—see below) describes the figure in the shadows upper right as Mab’s “dwarfish companion the Brownie.” No brownie, a benevolent spirit or goblin in Scottish folklore (see OED
), appears in Milton’s poem, although such a creature may have been suggested by the “Spicy Nut-brown Ale” consumed by those telling tales about Mab in “L’Allegro.” Alternatively, the figure may be a personification of the ale that inspires faery visions. Perhaps Mercutio’s powerfully imaginative description of “Queen Mab” in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
, act 1, scene 4, influenced Fuseli’s choice of subject. An engraving of the design by William Raddon was published by Ackermann & Co. in 1834 (Weinglass #305).
Fuseli executed the painting for inclusion as no. 30 in his Milton Gallery. For studies of this project, see Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füsslis Milton-Galerie (Zurich: Fretz & Wasmuth, 1963), this painting discussed p. 94, and Luisa Calè, Fuseli’s Milton Gallery: “Turning Readers into Spectators” (Oxford: Clarendon P, 2006), this painting not discussed.
Photo courtesy of Richard L. Feigen & Co.
19. Attributed to John Linnell. Shepherd and Sheep in a Landscape
. Oil, 31.0 x 46.0 cm., inscribed on the verso “retouched May 11/77 … John Linnell Snr.” This dark, rather overworked painting is not characteristic of Linnell’s style. Might this possibly be a rough oil sketch by Samuel Palmer “retouched” years later by Linnell? There are at least some slight similarities between this work and Palmer’s oil and tempera paintings of the mid-1830s. Such speculations could account for the price of £875, on an estimate of £100-200, fetched at BHO on 22 Aug., #51. Some of the white dots in this reproduction, particularly upper left, are probably reflections from the varnish.
Photo courtesy of Bonhams London.
MORTIMER, JOHN HAMILTON
RICHMOND, GEORGE (excluding most portraits)
ROMNEY, GEORGE (excluding most portraits)
Appendix: New Information on Blake’s Engravings