Barry, JamesBasire, JamesCalvert, EdwardCumberland, GeorgeFlaxman, JohnFuseli, HenryLinnell, JohnMortimer, John HamiltonPalmer, SamuelRichmond, GeorgeRomney, GeorgeStothard, Thomas
|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 |
|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 |
|DW ||Dominic Winter auctions, South Cerney, Gloucestershire |
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 |
|GP ||Grosvenor Prints, London |
|illus. ||illustration(s), illustrated |
|PBA ||PBA Galleries auctions, San Francisco |
|pl(s). ||plate(s) |
|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 |
|# ||auction lot or catalogue item number |
1. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
, pl. 5 (see enlargement
), printed in reddish-brown ink with pl. 6 in red ink on the verso (illus. 2
). Relief etching with white-line work and blue watercolor in the design above the text, platemark 15.0 x 10.7 cm. Wove paper without watermark, leaf 16.0 x 11.7 cm. Both pls. probably printed c. 1790. Blake also used ink colors very similar to the reddish-brown of pl. 5 for 14 pls. in copy B of The Marriage
, also printed c. 1790. Mounted in a window cut in a leaf of wove paper without watermark, 31.2 x 23.8 cm. and numbered “90” (not shown) in pen and brown ink top right. A framing line is inscribed in brown ink on the mount very close to the edges of the window. This is very probably the mount into which the leaf bearing pls. 5 and 6 was inlaid and the mount in turn bound “about 1853” (BB
337) by George A. Smith with the “Order” of the Songs of Innocence and of Experience
and many other prints from Blake’s illuminated books. The number top right probably represents the position of this leaf within the album. These impressions were formerly untraced since their sale at auction in 1938; see BB
287, 301, 338 #54, 341 #M1-2. Eight stabholes, cut into by the left edge of the mount, measure from the top hole 4.0, 3.8, 1.9, 2.5, 4.7, 5.4, and 4.15 cm. apart. A second set of 18 much smaller holes is about 3 mm. within the left edge of the mount; these are all about 1.5 cm. apart. The mount inscribed in pencil below the print, “from Marriage of Heaven & Hell page 5”; the verso inscribed in the same position by the same hand “Heaven & Hell page 6.” Essick collection. Click to show more.
A label associated with these Marriage pls., probably once pasted to the back of a former mat or frame, bears a pen and ink inscription: “Purchased for John J. Slocum / by Dr. Jacob Schwartz / at the [George C.] Smith Sale, Nov. 2, 1938, [#36] / for $45.00., at Park[e] Bernet galleries / J. J. S. attended Sale with his / Aunt Olivia & Uncle Sherman Flint.” The price recorded on this label apparently includes a $5 fee for Schwartz, since the lot sold for $40.
Provenance: As in BB to 1938; acquired at the Smith auction by the dealer Jacob Schwartz acting for the American diplomat and James Joyce bibliographer John J. Slocum (1914-97); by inheritance in 1997 to the person who brought the work, framed and double glazed, to Commonwealth Books, Boston, in Oct.; on consignment with Commonwealth Books, Nov. (not priced); sold Nov. to John Windle acting for Essick.
A lightly inked outline curves right of the horse in the design above the text and loops just above the final word in line 1 (“theirs”). A similar shadowy line, even more lightly printed, can be seen above and to the left of the falling figure. This is the escarpment of a plateau created by step etching. After an initial etch, Blake covered the design with acid resist, then etched the uncovered areas to a slightly greater depth. The inking ball caught the edge of the plateau and deposited a little ink. The smudged appearance of these lines suggests that Blake attempted to wipe them clean of ink but did not completely succeed. A similar effort may have extended to the areas between the man’s legs and below the horse’s muzzle, leaving behind a slight brown tone. There is no evidence of the edge of a step between the design and the text; the application of acid resist may have extended over both. If so, then only the large blank areas upper right and left would have been exposed to a second treatment with acid. The ink ball would not have been supported by relief surfaces in these portions of the copperplate; it makes sense to etch them more deeply to prevent foul inking. Some ink also adhered to and printed from the etching dike, particularly along the lower left and right margins. Blake may have cleaned most of the ink from the top and bottom etching dikes, although parts of their inner edges can still be seen. The serpent above the 3rd line of text from the end does not show the white-line stippling, deployed to indicate scales, clearly visible in copy B of The Marriage. I suspect that the white-line work was present on the copperplate when this impression was pulled but that it was obscured by heavy inking and printing. This would also appear to be the case with pl. 5 in copy C. The platemark, more prominent than in the vast majority of Blake’s relief etchings, also indicates that this example was printed with greater pressure than usual. The blue coloring used to indicate sky in the design seems unimpressive at first sight, but the tinting on the falling figure was applied with some care, perhaps as an undertone in anticipation of subsequent applications of rose and pink. Blake used such combinations of colors to represent flesh in his watercolors. I hesitate, however, to attribute the washes to either Blake or his wife, Catherine. Click to show less.
2. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
, pl. 6, printed in red ink with pl. 5 on the recto (illus. 1
). Relief etching, probably printed c. 1790. The platemark is 10.1 cm. in width. The edge of the window into which the leaf is inlaid covers the top platemark; BB
68 records a height of 15.1 cm. Text from pl. 5 shows through as a blind embossment on this verso, particularly lower left. Essick collection. See the caption to illus. 1 for further information.
The pl. is poorly printed lower left. Joseph Viscomi suggests that this resulted from an unbalanced roller in Blake’s press. Perhaps this impression and its companion on the recto were trial pulls before Blake had properly adjusted his press. Pl. 6 in copy B of The Marriage shows slightly better, but still weak, printing lower left. Neither Viscomi nor I have been able to find a close match for the red ink of this impression among Blake’s other printings of Marriage pls. datable to c. 1790. The color befits the “Memorable Fancy” beginning on this pl.: “As I was walking among the fires of hell, ….”
3. Title page to Songs of Innocence and of Experience
, posthumous copy p (see enlargement
of design). BB
pl. 1. Relief etching printed in black ink, image and platemark 11.5 x 7.1 cm., leaf of wove paper 18.7 x 12.9 cm. Printed 1832 or later by Frederick Tatham. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York.
This impression is in a previously unrecorded 2nd st. When compared to lifetime impressions, such as the well-inked and uncolored example in copy BB, this posthumous impression shows that work with a tool has cut away some of the relief surfaces left of the upper figure’s left upper arm, above his head (thereby eliminating part of his left hand), and along the lower edge of his left leg and foot. Similar work appears on the lower figure’s left upper arm, above and to the left of her head, and on her left upper leg and foot. A relief patch in the upper outline of her back, just below the man’s right knee, has been almost completely cut away. Some of the relief surface just above the lower left margin may also have been eliminated with a tool, although blotchy inking contributes to the white-line effects in this area. I have found this 2nd st. only in other posthumous copies (e.g., copies b and h); it does not appear in late copies printed by Blake, such as Z and AA of 1826. The 2nd st. alterations may have been made by Blake’s wife, Catherine, or Tatham after Blake’s death.
4. “The Lamb,” Songs of Innocence and of Experience, posthumous copy p. BB pl. 8. Relief etching printed in black ink, image 11.8 x 7.8 cm., platemark 12.3 x 7.8 cm., leaf of wove paper 18.7 x 12.9 cm. Printed 1832 or later by Frederick Tatham. This impression shows weak inking and printing along the right border and the top left corner. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York.
5. “London,” Songs of Innocence and of Experience, posthumous copy p. BB pl. 46. Relief etching printed in black ink, image and platemark 11.3 x 7.0 cm., leaf of wove paper 18.7 x 12.9 cm. Printed 1832 or later by Frederick Tatham. This impression is reasonably well printed in a grainy ink, but with some foul inking of recessed areas within the cloud of smoke right of the second stanza. Was this style of inking and printing a purposeful attempt to create a smoky effect? A positive answer might be giving too much credit to Tatham. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York.
Drawings and Paintings
6. Colinet and Thenot, with Shepherds’ Crooks, Leaning against Trees
, a preliminary drawing for Blake’s 4thwood engraving
#504, pl. 8) in R. J. Thornton’s ed. of The Pastorals of Virgil
, 1821 (see enlargement
). Gray and black ink (possibly over pencil), white and gray wash, 3.7 x 9.6 cm., datable to c. 1820. The strengthening of selected lines in black ink may have been added at a slightly later time than the drawing in gray ink. Butlin #769.3 (then untraced). Essick collection. Click to show more.
This small drawing shows a surprising number of pentimenti. Colinet, the younger shepherd on the left, was originally placed closer to the sheep. He may have been kneeling. The sheep closest to Colinet was sketched further left, his head raised higher. A few lines above the dog suggest foliage, either a tree on a distant hill or branches and leaves descending from the large tree on the left, as in the relief etching of the design. The dog’s head may have been sketched closer to the running shepherd’s right leg. This man’s right arm was first sketched a little lower, his left arm a little higher, and his shepherd’s crook higher and further right. The branch arching above Thenot, the older shepherd on the right, and its leaves above the flock of sheep were originally slightly higher than their bolder execution in black ink. A patch of light gray pigment just below Thenot’s left armpit probably masks some preliminary sketching. Blake then added a few ink lines over the white area to define Thenot’s chest and left upper arm. Thin washes around Colinet’s hands hint at other modifications. The cluster of light brown lines below the running flock may simply be stains similar to the darker brown spots along the design’s lower edge. This drawing is intermediate between Blake’s relief etching of the design and his wood engraving; see Essick, “A Relief Etching of Blake’s Virgil Illustrations,” Blake 25.3 (winter 1991-92): 117-27.
All of Blake’s wood engravings illustrate Ambrose Philips’s “imitation” of Virgil’s first eclogue. In this preliminary drawing, as in the wood engraving, Colinet holds his shepherd’s crook in his left hand and panpipes in his right. Thenot leans against the tree on the right and gestures with his right hand toward a third shepherd, Lightfoot, who runs on the background hill followed by his barking dog. Blake is probably responding to a brief speech by Thenot: “See Lightfoot; he shall tend them [the sheep] close; and I / ‘tween whiles, across the plain will glance mine eyes.—” (1: 14 of Thornton’s ed.). Lightfoot seems to be driving the hillside flock rapidly to the right, but the sheep have their heads turned back toward the left. The marks top center would appear to be fragments from a mostly scraped away inscription in brown ink. Based on extensive analysis using high-resolution images captured with a Celestron digital microscope, Alexander Gourlay has determined that the word is “WOLVES.” The lines illustrated in Philips’s text do not refer to any predators, but a slightly later passage, illustrated by another wood engraving, names both the “fox” and “wolf” as potential threats. If “WOLVES” is a title or caption for the design reproduced here, it provides an explanation for the running dog, man, and sheep: all are fleeing wolves. As Butlin points out, Lightfoot’s posture “recalls the messengers in the Job illustration” coming to tell Job and his wife of the destruction of their possessions, including their “sheep” (Job 1.16). Blake first executed the Job design as a watercolor c. 1805-06 (Butlin #550.4).
Similar brown-ink fragments of different words, probably including “Colinet” on Butlin #769.2 and possibly “Thenot” on Butlin #769.7, appear top center on several other Virgil drawings; see Blake 31.4 (spring 1998): 124, caption to illus. 9. This ink differs from the gray and black inks Blake used in the drawings, and thus these inscriptions are probably not by him. They may have been written by John Linnell, who acquired the drawings no later than 1839. The sharply slanted terminal “S” in the inscription on this drawing is similar to those in the first line of his manuscript draft of an advertisement for Blake’s Job engravings; see the reproduction in Blake 45.4 (spring 2012): 121. I hesitate to speculate about who attempted to delete the inscriptions or why.
Provenance: As in Butlin to 1927; sold 1980 from the collection of Mrs. Matthew Baird to Goodspeed’s Book Shop, Boston; acquired 1980 by Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, Newton Centre, Massachusetts (price not recorded); sold 2013 from the Vershbow estate as recorded above under Drawings and Paintings. Click to show less.
7. The Gambols of Ghosts According with Their Affections Previous to the Final Judgement
). Watercolor, 26.9 x 20.7 cm., datable to 1805. One of 19 watercolor illus. to Robert Blair’s The Grave
discovered in 2001; see Martin Butlin, “New Risen from the Grave: Nineteen Unknown Watercolors by William Blake,” Blake
35.3 (winter 2001-02): 68-73. Photo courtesy of the William Blake Archive
. Click to show more.
This complex design is discussed in William Blake’s Watercolour Inventions in Illustration of The Grave by Robert Blair, ed. Martin Butlin, essay by Morton D. Paley (Lavenham, Suffolk: William Blake Trust, 2009) 56. As Butlin indicates, “At the top of the right-hand side Blake seems to have included a scene of baptism in its most negative form: an horrific old man clutching a very reluctant child as he dips his hand in a bowl of water held by two young figures.” There would appear to be another parodic version of one of the sacraments—or more precisely a prelude to it—at top left. A young man holds a round object, very probably a ring, in his left hand. He grasps a young woman’s left wrist with his right hand and may be about to slip the ring over one of the extended fingers of her left hand. He looks not at his intended but at the approaching patriarchal figure to the right, who points his left index finger at the couple and raises a dagger in his right hand. Is this the girl’s angry father, threatening violence as a way of halting an impending engagement? The girl’s raised right hand, palm facing right, may be a gesture directed at the old rather than the young man. Her open mouth and general expression indicate alarm. The two women below the pair may be pulling them downward and thereby helping their entry into the church where a wedding ceremony can commence. These may be personifications of the desires of lovers caught between fulfillment and restraint.
Nineteen Grave watercolors, including Gambols of Ghosts, were offered at SNY, 2 May 2006. For discussions of this auction, see E. B. Bentley, “Grave Indignities: Greed, Hucksterism, and Oblivion: Blake’s Watercolors for Blair’s Grave,” Blake 40.2 (fall 2006): 66-71, and Essick, “Blake in the Marketplace, 2006,” Blake 40.4 (spring 2007): 116-17, 120-26. All 20 Grave watercolors are available in the William Blake Archive <http://www.blakearchive.org>. Click to show less.
8. Joseph Ordering Simeon to Be Bound
). Pen and watercolor over pencil, 33.8 x 48.3 cm., datable to c. 1785. Butlin #158. Laid paper with a fleur de lis watermark near the center of the leaf, chain lines running horizontally 2.9 cm. apart. Although the drawing is pasted on all margins to a backing mat, these features of the paper are discernable in a raking light. The glue used to affix the drawing to the mat has stained the margins of the recto, particularly at the top, upper left side, and on the right. A vertical tear extends 1.0 cm. from the top center margin. The flesh-pink and yellow watercolors are faded. Essick collection. Click to show more.
This drawing is a preliminary for the more finished watercolor (illus. 9) in the Fitzwilliam Museum. The design illustrates events recounted in Genesis 42. Ten of Joseph’s half-brothers have been sent by their father, Jacob, to Egypt to buy corn. Eight brothers are clearly pictured on the left; a 9th is represented only by a few lines delineating head and hair between the upper and lower figures furthest left. Pharaoh has placed Joseph, seated on the throne-like bench or chair in the center of the design, in charge of preparing for the predicted 7 years of dearth. The brothers do not recognize Joseph, but he knows who they are, accuses them of being spies, and places “them all together into ward three days” (Genesis 42.17). His favorite brother, Benjamin, is not among the group that has come to Egypt. After releasing them from prison, Joseph orders one of the visitors, Simeon, to be taken hostage to enforce his demand that Benjamin will be included during their next trip to Egypt. Simeon half kneels on the right while being bound by an Egyptian servant or guard not referred to in Genesis; the brothers on the left respond with surprise and regret at this harsh treatment, the reasons for which they do not understand. Joseph overhears his brethren discussing their guilt over selling him into bondage and “he turned himself about from them, and wept” (Genesis 42.24). Blake pictures this moment in the narrative. Joseph’s turning away from his brothers indicates his complex psychological state, a contradictory mixture of familial attachment, anger at past crimes against him, and awareness of his present powers to punish or forgive. The rhythm of head, eye, and hand positions contributes substantially to the interplay of emotions among the figures expressed by Blake’s design. The prominence of eyes and hands in Blake’s art of the 1780s may be due in part to the necessity for an engraver to concentrate on their coordination.
Butlin notes that there are “a number of pentimenti” in this drawing. The head and upper body of the figure far right were first drawn higher and a little further to the right; the head and shoulder of the brother top left were originally sketched higher in the design. A few very light pencil lines left of Joseph’s upper body suggest that he was first sketched in a more upright posture. Click to show less.
9. Joseph Ordering Simeon to Be Bound
). Pen and watercolor over pencil, 40.5 x 56.0 cm., datable to 1785. Butlin #156. Photo courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. See illus. 8
for a preliminary design.
Blake exhibited this work and its 2 companions, Joseph’s Brethren Bowing before Him and Joseph Making Himself Known to His Brethren (Butlin #155, 157), at the Royal Academy in 1785. At least one strand of Old Testament narrative treats Jacob’s 12 sons as the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel (see 1 Kings 18.31). Thus, the story of Joseph and his brethren can be read as a harbinger of the struggles of the Israelites to be one nation in spite of quarrels among their tribes. Blake may have seen the story as a paradigmatic example of the eternal conflicts between the forces of unification and fragmentation that figure so prominently in his writings. The restoration of psychic and communal harmony through the forgiveness of sin, an important motif in Blake’s later work, is foreshadowed by the final episode of the Joseph story in Genesis 45, illustrated by Blake’s concluding design. For an interesting biographical interpretation of the 3 Joseph designs, see David Bindman, Blake as an Artist (Oxford: Phaidon, 1977) 34-35. Butlin #156 lists the major differences between the preliminary drawing (illus. 8) and this finished watercolor, but does not note the addition of 5 or 6 serpents in the elaborated background of the latter. The 4 most prominent snakes coil around columns and foliage to emblemize the intertwined and potentially harmful family relationships unfolding in the foreground. For further discussion, see Christopher Heppner, Reading Blake’s Designs (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) 12-21, 89-92.
10. Two Visionary Figures, Mountains Behind
, p. 53 from the Smaller Blake-Varley Sketchbook (see enlargement
). Pencil, leaf 20.7 x 15.5 cm., datable to c. 1819. Butlin #692.53. Collection of the E. J. Pratt Library, Victoria University, Toronto. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York. Click to show more.
Christie’s detailed auction cat. entry of 31 Jan., #147, notes an “indistinct inscription in the hand of John Varley ‘Hotspur…’ and further indistinct inscriptions (recto) and with indistinct inscription in the hand of John Varley ‘it is allways [sic] to keep yourself collected’ (verso). … The reference to Hotspur and his [Varley’s] need to keep himself ‘collected’ may refer to a lost drawing on the missing facing page” of the sketchbook. The cat. also provides a description of the design: Might the figure on the left, not the one on the right, be female? Note the rounded breasts. The supposed halo is offset to the right; it could be the rising or setting sun. Curving horizontal lines on the right suggest more hills or mountains, irregularly rather than “regularly” shaped. Three horizontal lines above the peaks on the left may be clouds. I am unable to decipher the two vertical lines, with a looping line at their base, left of the leftmost peak. Clusters of lines left of the figures’ feet and between their feet may be the rudimentary beginnings of foreground motifs. The raised arms of the figure on the left recall Satan in several versions of Blake’s illus. of the fallen angel calling up his legions in Paradise Lost (see Butlin #529.1, 536.1, possibly 591), but other motifs make such an identification questionable. The precise subject of the design has not yet been determined.
The condition report provided by Christie’s mentions several problems, including the extensive but light brown staining evident in a color reproduction, “three small areas of old restoration towards the upper edge of the sheet,” some “fading to the pencilwork,” and a water stain lower left. Many of the lines also look rubbed; note particularly the cluster of graphite fragments below the figures’ feet. The brown stains were probably caused by the “acidic mount” to which the drawing has been “taped along the upper edge.” When removed from the sketchbook and sold at CL, 15 June 1971, #157, the leaf was not mounted. Thus, one of its subsequent owners taped it to the harmful mount. Let that be a warning to us all about the care and keeping of works of art. Click to show less.
11. The Waking of Leonora, Design for the Tailpiece for Bürger’s “Leonora.”
Watercolor, 6.7 x 12.9 cm. on leaf of wove paper 8.2 x 14.0 cm., datable to c. 1796. See illus. 12
for the inscription lower right. Butlin #338 records the first owner of the watercolor as “Mrs. Dew-Smith by 1912.” Christie’s cat. of 9 April, #65, adds to this provenance the sensible speculation that the drawing passed to her (I suspect by inheritance) from her husband, Albert George Dew-Smith (1848-1903). He owned several works by Blake, including America
copy B, acquired in 1874. For information on A. G. Dew-Smith, see Joseph Viscomi, “Two Fake Blakes Revisited; One Dew-Smith Revealed,” Blake in Our Time: Essays in Honour of G. E. Bentley Jr
, ed. Karen Mulhallen (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2010) 35-78. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York. See also illus. 13
for related works.
12. Top: inscriptions lower right on The Waking of Leonora
). Area shown approximately 0.5 x 2.6 cm.
Bottom: The same, manipulated in Adobe Photoshop to increase the visibility of the inscription right of “del” (see enlargement).
Blake first wrote an inscription lower right, “Blake del & sc.,” very lightly in pencil. He appears to have written some version of “& sc.” twice, one above the other. The lower “& sc.” is on roughly the same line as “Blake del” in pencil and thus was probably written along with the first part of the inscription. The characters may have been poorly formed; this would explain the need for writing a more legible version above. The wording of the pencil inscription names Blake as both the delineator (“del,” an abbreviation for “delineavit”) and the engraver (“sc.,” an abbreviation of “sculpsit”) of the design. Blake then wrote “Blake del__” over his pencil inscription in a dark black medium, possibly the same black watercolor or ink used to outline motifs in the design. The letters of “Blake” are offset to the left, and the dash or underscore following “del” runs through the lower “& sc.” inscription. The pencil version indicates that Blake believed that he would be employed to engrave this illus., and probably the two others he designed, for J. T. Stanley’s translation of Bürger’s poem. Having learned that someone else would engrave the illus., he changed the wording to take credit for the design but not its execution as a print. Engravers were generally paid more for their copy work than the original artists of book illus., and thus these layered inscriptions indicate what may have been a financial disappointment for Blake. He was similarly treated in 1805, when R. H. Cromek failed to hire him to engrave the designs for Robert Blair’s The Grave. Photo courtesy of Christie’s New York.
13. Sketch for “The Waking of Leonora”
). Pencil, 9.5 x 13.5 cm., leaf of wove paper 14.9 x 23.5 cm., inscribed in pen and ink lower right “Drawn by William / Blake. / vouched by Fred.k
Tatham.” Butlin #339. A preliminary drawing for the watercolor (illus. 11
). Photo courtesy of the Keynes Collection, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
The three principal figures are basically the same as in the watercolor and subsequent engraving (illus. 14), but this sketch includes cloudborne figures not retained in the 2 later versions. Five figures descend in an arc above Leonora’s head. Four have their arms, or possibly trumpets, extended toward her. These may be “sweet spirits” awakening her (p. 15 of Stanley’s translation of Leonora; see also the poem’s concluding stanza, quoted in the caption to illus. 14). At least 5(?) figures hover above Leonora’s mother on the left. They may represent the “airy rabble” of “spectres” haunting Leonora’s nightmare (p. 10). Another figure to the right descends diagonally toward the group of 5 with at least one arm extended toward them. There may be flames, or several alternative positions for a sword, rising from this figure’s extended hand. This may be a benign presence, chasing away the creatures of Leonora’s frightening dream. I am not able to decipher the cluster of forms sketched immediately above the head of Leonora’s mother on the left; they may be related in some vague way to the horse ridden by Leonora in her nightmare ride to the land of the dead.
14. Tailpiece, p. 16, to Gottfried Augustus Bürger, Leonora
, translated and altered by J. T. Stanley, 1796. Stipple etching/engraving by “Perry” (full name unknown) after Blake’s watercolor (illus. 11
). Design 6.5 x 12.7 cm., platemark 9.5 x 15.2 cm. BB
pl. 3. Essick collection. Click to show more.
Blake’s design illustrates the final stanza of Stanley’s translation, printed just above this tailpiece on p. 16:
“Wake, Leonora!—wake to Love!
“For thee, his choicest wreath he wove;”
Death vainly aim’d his Dart.
The Past was all a dream; she woke—
He lives;—’twas William’s self who spoke,
And clasp’d her to his Heart.
The text does not indicate the presence of Leonora’s mother, pictured on the left, in this concluding scene. Blake represents her as one of his figures of fallen nature, a “Mother of my Mortal part” (“To Tirzah,” E 30), or as a personification of “Aged Ignorance” (For Children: The Gates of Paradise, E 32; see also Europe, E 64). A particularly close visual and thematic parallel is the seated woman in the illus. to the 1797 ed. of Young’s Night Thoughts, p. 35 (BB pl. 20). In Stanley’s version of Bürger’s poem, the mother utters conventional pieties in her attempt to assuage her daughter’s grief over the supposed death of Leonora’s fiancé, William, but also proposes that he may still be alive and has found another lover. The mother also admonishes her daughter for questioning God. Perhaps Blake associated such sentiments with the established church and its restrictive moral codes. The mother’s features are more refined, and her expression less stupefied, in Perry’s engraving than in Blake’s drawing.
The passage illustrated is Stanley’s addition to Bürger’s original, which ends with Leonora dead and William still absent. In a letter of 15 April 1796 to the book’s publisher, William Miller, quoted in the “Advertisement” in the book, Stanley complains that the poem might be “calculated … to injure the cause of Religion and Morality” (vi). “Such reflections have tempted me to make the alterations I have alluded to” (vii). In his “Preface,” Miller further explains that “the Poem will be found, in many respects, to have been altered from the original; but more particularly towards the conclusion, where the translator thinking the moral not sufficiently explained, has added several lines” (x). Miller then offers a more “literal” translation of Bürger’s final 8 lines, ending with the following address to Leonora:
Though rack’d with sorrow, be resign’d,
Thy earthly course is at an end,
May God unto thy Soul be kind. (x)
By replacing this with a happy ending, Stanley vindicates the mother’s beliefs in the goodness of God and the power of prayer. The theological and ethical perspectives shared by the translator and the publisher have much in common with Leonora’s mother. Is Blake’s characterization of her also a critique of them? Click to show less.
Separate Plates and Plates in Series
The British vendor on EB, “Pat” of “4 changinghands,” tells me that she acquired this impression in a mixed lot of prints at an auction house (I suspect Bamfords) in Derby, but has no further provenance information. Only the 3rd impression I’ve ever seen on the market; the others were sold in 1976 (2nd st., black ink, from the collection of Geoffrey Keynes, SP impression 2C) and 1999 (1st st., sanguine ink; see Blake 33.4 [spring 2000]: 109).
Stothard’s “Zephyrus and Flora” may have influenced Blake’s depiction of the 2 figures hovering near flowers on the title page to The Book of Thel. If so, then Blake’s male may be the wind attempting to embrace (and pollinate?) the female personification of the flower from which she emerges.
Letterpress Books with Engravings by and after Blake, Including Prints Extracted from Such Books
The auction cat. points out that the Vershbows acquired this copy from “Scopazzi, 1971.” Windle tells me that the San Francisco dealer John Scopazzi (1910-87) specialized in acquiring uncolored maps and prints and having them professionally colored in period styles. I doubt that this copy of The Grave was colored by Scopazzi, but such a source always raises suspicions. The auction cat. also refers to “the Keynes copy of the 1813 edition” hand colored, but I have not been able to find any record of such a copy, nor do I recall seeing such a work in Sir Geoffrey’s collection. A hand-colored copy of the 1808 quarto ed. is in the Huntington Library, call no. 54049. Its tinting is more skillful, restrained, and convincing than the Vershbow copy. The palette and placement of colors in the Huntington volume share some characteristics with hand-colored copies of Young’s Night Thoughts, but I hesitate to ascribe the tinting to Blake or his wife, Catherine.
15. Luigi Schiavonetti after Blake, “The Counsellor, King, Warrior, Mother & Child in the Tomb,” pl. 4 for Robert Blair, The Grave
, 1808 (see enlargement
). Previously unrecorded 1st
prepublication proof st. of this etching/engraving. Essick collection. Image 14.0 x 22.8 cm. on leaf of laid paper 14.6 x 23.4 cm., 0.22 mm. thick. No watermark and no clearly visible chain lines in spite of prominent wire lines. The 1st
published st., appearing in the 1808 folio issue of The Grave
, is on a very similar laid paper—but measurably thicker at 0.30 mm.
The design in the impression reproduced here lacks a number of hatching strokes present in all later sts. The most noticeable absences appear on the counsellor’s right arm above and below the elbow, the left (upper) extension of his long mustache, and both legs below the knees, particularly where his gown or shroud gathers at his ankles. The pillow below and left of his head, the unrolled portion of the scroll below and to the right of his right hand, and the pillow below the king’s head lack diagonal hatching patterns found in all later sts. Fine horizontal lines have been added to the warrior’s thighs, the mother’s breasts, and the right side of the child’s chest in the next recorded st. Oddly, a small patch of hatching on the central extension of the counsellor’s beard, about 2.5 cm. right of his mouth, does not appear in later sts. These 4 lines were probably burnished off the pl. The flame extending from the oil lamp, upper center, has been brightened and made more prominent in the next st. by burnishing away a few interior lines and adding a stronger outline on its left side.
The leaf on which this proof is printed extends 2.0 mm. below the lower margin of the design. The upper half of the signatures found in the 1st published st. would appear if they had been present. Since the next known st. is a proof on Whatman wove paper with the design completed but before all letters (Essick collection), it seems probable that the copperplate from which the proof reproduced here was printed also lacked all letters.
Blake’s Circle and Followers
BASIRE, JAMES (with an emphasis on pls. produced during Blake’s apprenticeship to Basire in the 1770s)
LINNELL, JOHN (excluding later portraits)
MORTIMER, JOHN HAMILTON
RICHMOND, GEORGE (excluding most portraits)
ROMNEY, GEORGE (excluding most portraits)
Appendix: New Information on Blake’s Engravings
Listed below are substantive additions or corrections to Robert N. Essick, The Separate Plates of William Blake: A Catalogue (1983), and Essick, William Blake’s Commercial Book Illustrations (1991). Newly discovered impressions of previously recorded published sts. of Blake’s engravings are listed for only the rarer pls.
The original frame, dated by Butlin and Hamlyn to the “early to mid-nineteenth century” (52), includes some paper lining on its inner lip bearing a fragmentary letterpress text: “better done at no expense … allotted to the … really elicited eviden[ce] … th[e] adjustment of ….” This text matches, in wording, typography, spacing, and lineation, p. 145 of Jeremy Bentham, Justice and Codification Petitions (London: Robert Heward, 1829), thereby establishing a terminus a quo of 1829 for the frame.
Butlin and Hamlyn record a pencil inscription on the frame that they tentatively transcribe as “Bennett” (52). Infrared photography has revealed the inscription as “Bennett 4,” upper center right of the frame when viewed from the back. This inscription was probably written by the frame-maker as a record of who ordered the frame; perhaps “Bennett” had ordered 4 frames in all or the number was used to distinguish this customer from 3 others with the same surname. This purchaser of both the print and its frame may have been Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett (1785-1861), the 5th child of the 4th Earl of Tankerville, Chillingham Castle, Northumberland. She was a student of John Linnell’s, taking from him lessons in both engraving and painting miniature portraits (see Alfred T. Story, The Life of John Linnell [London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1892] 1: 219). We know that Linnell was instrumental in selling impression 2C (2nd st.) of “Job” on behalf of Blake’s wife, Catherine; he may have also been involved in the sale of impression 2D to Thomas Chevalier or Charles Heathcote Tatham, both well known to Linnell. It seems likely that Linnell also played a role in selling the Summers/Essick impression for Blake’s wife in 1829 or at a slightly later date before her death in 1831. It is less likely, because of poor relations between Linnell and Frederick Tatham, that Linnell had anything to do with a sale after Tatham had acquired Blake’s stock of works upon Mrs. Blake’s death, nor is there any record of contact between Tatham and Lady Mary Bennett. Thus the tentative provenance for the Summers/Essick impression is as follows: William Blake, thence by inheritance to his wife, Catherine, upon his death in 1827; sold by Catherine Blake (with the assistance of John Linnell) to Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett between 1829 and 1831; by inheritance through the Bennett family, or by sale(s) to other parties, until May or June 2004, when acquired by a Lincolnshire antiques dealer at a house sale; sold by him at the Kempton Market, Sunbury-on-Thames, to Gabriel Summers of London in June 2004; sold by Summers to Robert Essick, Nov. 2010, John Windle acting as agent. The print was cleaned and matted by early 2011, the original frame, stretcher, and backing canvas retained separately.