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In the prospectus for his book, Varley announced his intention to include an engraving of Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar. This was never completed but, as with Ghost of a Flea, Varley may have been interested in the transformation of man into beast. The Bible describes how King Nebuchadnezzar was driven mad and forced to live like a wild animal as punishment for excessive pride. The association between moral corruption and bestial appearance is also suggested by Lavater, who traces a scale of perfection from the head of a frog to the face of Apollo (see the nearby panel).

March 2011