William Blake
Cerberus 1824–7

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
Date 1824–7
Medium Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 372 x 528 mm
Acquisition Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the the Art Fund 1919
Not on display

Display caption

Cerberus, the terrifying three-headed monster, guards the circle of Hell where gluttons are punished.

Blake drew this design with charcoal as well as pencil and, later, pen and ink. The distant flames of Hell are contrasts of deep red vermilion, a brownish-pink lake pigment that is probably brazilwood, and yellow gamboge. Brazilwood was one of the cheaper and less popular red/pink lake colours. Blake was always careful not to overlay colours or drawing media. This served him in good stead here because, as he undoubtedly knew, charcoal tends to absorb a lot of colour from red lakes.

September 2004

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