William Blake A Figure Standing in a Gothic Apse, perhaps the Empress Maud. Verso: Detailed Drawings for ‘The Empress Maud in Bed’ c.1819

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Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
A Figure Standing in a Gothic Apse, perhaps the Empress Maud. Verso: Detailed Drawings for ‘The Empress Maud in Bed’
Date c.1819
Medium Graphite on paper. Verso: graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 155 x 205 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1971
Reference
T01334
Not on display

Catalogue entry

T01334 [from] Drawings from the Small Blake-Varley Sketchbook c.1819 [T01334-T01335; complete]

The Tate Gallery owns three pages from the smaller Blake-Varley Sketchbook, first used by John Varley for landscape sketches and then by Blake for recording the visions he saw at Varley's house in 1819, the date inscribed on a number of the pages from the Sketchbook including T01334. The Sketchbook seems originally to have contained sixty-six leaves, sixteen of which are now lost. After a number of pages, including N05184, had been removed, the Sketchbook probably passed to Varley's friend the musician William Christian Selle, whose daughter married H. Buxton Forman, who definitely gave it to William Bell Scott in 1870. It remained at Penkhill Castle, the home of Scott's friend Miss Alice Boyd, until it was rediscovered there in 1967 by Mr M.D.E. Clayton-Stamm. It was subsequently broken up and reproduced in facsimile (Martin Butlin, The Blake-Varley Sketchbook of 1819, 1969; the Sketchbook is also fully described and catalogued, but not reproduced, in Butlin 1981, pp.495–506 no.692) and sold page by page at Christie's on 15 June 1971 (141–172, most of the Blakes repr.). On 21 March 1989 a second, larger Blake-Varley sketchbook was sold at Christie's (184, repr. in separate catalogue); this sketchbook had belonged to William Mulready, Varley's brother-in-law, and it was sold with his collection at Christie's 28–30 April 1864 (86).

T01334 A Figure Standing in a Gothic Apse, perhaps the Empress Maud c.1819 (recto)
Detailed Drawings for ‘The Empress Maud in Bed’ 1819 (verso)

T 01334 / B 692 23–4
Pencil on paper 115×205 (6 1/8×8) Inscribed by John Varley on verso, ‘the Empress Maud said rose water/ was in the vessel under the table/ octr. 29 friday. 11 PM. 1819./& said there were closets which/ contained all the conveniences for the bedchamber’
Watermarked ‘1806’ Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1971
PROVENANCE John Varley;? William Christian Selle, whose daughter married Henry Buxton Forman; Henry Buxton Forman, given 1870 to William Bell Scott; Miss Alice Boyd, bequeathed 1897 to her niece Miss Elcanor Margaret Courtney-Boyd, bequeathed 1946 to her niece Miss Evelyn May Courtney-Boyd, sold 1967 to M.D.E. Clayton-Stamm, sold Christie's 15 June 1971 (in 161 with no.62, recto repr.) 800 gns. bt Agnew's for the Tate Gallery
EXHIBITED Burlington Fine Arts Club 1876 (in 318, the Blake-Varley Sketchbook); Tate Gallery 1969–71 (with the rest of the Blake-Varley Sketchbook; no catalogue issued)
LITERATURE William B. Scott, ‘A Varley-and-Blake Sketchbook’, The Portfolio, 11, 1871, pp.103–5; Rossetti 1880, p.263 list 2 in no.82; Butlin 1969, pp.1–4, 21–2, repr.; Butlin 1981, p.498 nos.692 23 and 24

This sheet was pages 23–4 of the Blake-Varley Sketchook. It was removed when the book was finally dismembered in 1969. The drawings on the verso are related to the finished composition on what was the facing page 25, which shows ‘The Empress Maud in Bed’ (coll. Mrs Edward Croft-Murray; Butlin 1981, no.692 25, repr. sale cat., Christie's 15 June 1971, lot 163). This shows a woman lying in a canopied bed in a room with Gothic arches and furnishings, some of which are referred to in the inscription on no.62, the drawings on which show the octagonal plan of the room and a detail of the vault and two hanging candelabra concealed behind the bed-curtains in the finished composition.

The woman is presumably intended as the Empress Maud of the inscription, more usually known as Matilda (1102–1167), daughter of Henry 1 of England, widow of the German Emperor Henry v, and contestant with her cousin Stephen for the English throne; her son by her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou became Henry II. She appears again on p.27 of the sketchbook and is also the subject of a drawing in an American private collection (Butlin no.725, pl.941).

The recto shows the possible Empress Maud standing in a Gothic apse richly decorated with a ribbed vault, stained glass, blind Gothic tracery and a tall panel carved in relief in an elaborate pattern. On each side of the window are paintings of female saints, that on the left being the subject of the enlarged drawing on the once facing page 22, now also in the Tate Gallery, T01335, which also contains drawings of the base of one of the columns, what appears to be another architectural detail, and a detail of the stained glass window with the colour notes ‘pl’ (plum), ‘M’ (?), ‘Lt. Blue’ (light blue) and ‘crimson’.

The second, larger sketchbook containing landscape drawings by John Varley and Visionary Heads by Blake, sold at Christie's on 21 March 1989, is clearly the ‘volume containing 49 heads, in pencil, from visions which appeared to him [Blake] and remained while he completed them; at the other end of the book are 16 landscapes by Varley’, described in the catalogue of the Mulready sale at Christie's, 28–30 April 1864 (86). The provenance given for the smaller Blake-Varley Sketchbook, as given above, is based on the statement made by William Bell Scott in his Portfolio article, according to which he had obtained the sketchbook from ‘A young friend who had married the daughter of a companion of Varley, a fellow-artist, a musician who taught at the same seminary, as very many artists at the time eked out their incomes by teaching’. William Christian Selle was a musician and a friend of Varley. His daughter married Henry Buxton Forman, and Scott wrote inside the back cover of the smaller sketchbook, ‘This sketchbook was presented to me by H. Buxton Forman. 1870’.


Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990

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