N05055 Elohim Creating Adam 1795/c.1805
N 05055 / B 289
Colour print finished in ink and watercolour 431 × 536 (17 × 21 1/8) on paper approx. 515×595 (20 1/4×23 1/2)
Signed ‘1795 WB inv [in monogram]’ b.c. and inscribed ‘Elohim creating Adam’ below design
Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939
PROVENANCE Thomas Butts; Thomas Butts jun.; Capt. F.J. Butts; his widow, sold through Carfax April 1906 to W. Graham Robertson
EXHIBITED BFAC 1876 (205); Carfax 1904 (18); Carfax 1906 (30); Century of Art Grafton Galleries 1911 (55); Tate Gallery (1), Manchester (1), Nottingham (1) and Edinburgh (5) 1913–14; on loan to Tate Gallery 1923–7; BFAC 1927 (1, pl.2); British Art R A 1934 (771, pl.87; 701, pl.164); Whitechapel 1934 (51); Wartime Acquisitions National Gallery 1942 (8); Paris (1, repr. in colour facing p.6), Antwerp (1, pl.2), Zurich (1, repr. in colour) and Tate Gallery (2) 1947; Tate Gallery 1978 (85, repr. in colour)
LITERATURE Rossetti 1863, p.203 no.18, and 1880, p.209 no.20; Robertson in Gilchrist 1907, pp.406–7, repr. facing p.406; Binyon and Keynes Job 1935, 1, p.10; Percival 1938, p.214, repr.; Collins Baker in Huntington Library Quarterly, IV, 1940–1, p.366, repr. p.363 (reprinted in Essick 1973, pp.124–5, pl.48); Blunt in Warburg Journal, VI, 1943, pp.198–9, 226; Keynes Faber Gallery 1946, pp.4, 24, colour pl. 1; Fryc 1947, p.130; Preston 1952, pp.29–31 no.1, pl.1; Digby 1957, pp.32–3, pl.34; Keynes Bible 1957, p.2 no.3 repr.; H.M. Margoliouth ‘Blake's Drawings for Young's Night Thoughts’. Pinto 1957, pp.202–3; Blunt 1959, p.58, pl.26b; Damon 1965, pp.5, 119; Beer 1968, pp.192, 256, pl.34; Keynes Letters 1968, p.118; Raine 1968, 11, p.13, pl.127; Bentley Blake Records 1969, p.573; Kostelanetz in Rosenfeld 1969, p.124, pl.2; Warner in Erdman and Grant 1970, pp.184, 189, pl.94; Tolley in Blake Newsteller, VI, 1972–3, pp.28–9; Mellor 1974, pp.151–2, pl. 39; Rosenblum 1975, pp.43–4, pl. 47; Bindman 1977, pp.98–9, colour pl. 1; Klonsky 1977, p.57, repr. in colour; Bindman Graphic Works 1978, no.324, repr.; Paley 1978, p.37, colour pl.28; Butlin in Blake XIII, 1979–80, p.16; Essick Printmaker 1980, p.132; La Belle in Blake XIV, 1980–1, pp.67–72, pl.3; Butlin 1981, pp.158–9 no.289, colour pl.388; Raine 1982, pp.30, 226, 308 and at pl.104, repr.; Warner 1984, pp.20, 30–1, 42–3, 87, 95–6, 105, 121, pl. 17; Hoagwood 1985, p.69, pl.6. Also repr: Mizue, no.816, 1973, ⅔, p.13, colour pl.1
Listed in Blake's account with Thomas Butts of 3 March 1806 as ‘God Creating Adam’, apparently as having been delivered on 7 September 1805. There are no other known versions but, this version having already been sold to Butts, there could have been a second copy when, on 9 June 1818, Blake offered a complete set of the 12 large prints to Dawson Turner (Butlin 1981, no.290). The Tate print, on account of the similarity in handling and colouring to N05059 and N05058, seems to have been executed in 1804–5, shortly before being sold to Butts; the untraced version could have been executed when the design was first conceived, in the 1795 of the inscribed date. There is a pencil sketch for this composition on p.54 of Blake's Notebook (Butlin no.201 54, repr. Erdman and Moor 1973).
Elohim is one of the Hebrew names for God, the creator in Genesis and representing God in his aspect as Justice; the name can also be translated as ‘judges’. In Night the Eighth of Vala or the Four Zoas Elohim appears as the third of the seven Eyes of God sent by the Eternals to lead Man out of the error of selfhood: ‘They sent Elohim who created Adam To die for Satan’ (Keynes Writings 1957, p.351). In this design the non-conformist Blake stresses the negative aspect of the Creation: Man's enslavement to the material world is symbolised by the worm, emblem of mortality, that entwines Adam. The mystery of creation is paralleled by the account in Urizen, published the year before the design was conceived, 1794.
Collins Baker suggests that the figure of Elohim is derived from an engraving after the Skiron of the Temple of the Winds (R. Dalton's engraving repr. Collins Baker 1940–1, p.363; 1973, pl.49).
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990