William Blake Pity c.1795

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Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
Pity
Date c.1795
Medium Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 425 x 539 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939
Reference
N05062
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

This image is taken from Macbeth: ‘pity, like a naked newborn babe / Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim horsed / Upon the sightless couriers of the air’. Blake draws on popularly-held associations between a fair complexion and moral purity. These connections are also made by Lavater, who writes that ‘the grey is the tenderest of horses, and, we may here add, that people with light hair, if not effeminate, are yet, it is well known, of tender formation and constitution’. Blake’s interest in the characters of different horses can also be seen in his Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims, hanging nearby.

March 2011

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