N 03355 / B 812 14
Pencil, pen and watercolour 527×371 (20 3/4×14 5/8)
Inscribed ‘Money’ in pencil on sack b.l. and, on reverse in pencil, with page upside down, ‘93’ t.l.
Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the National Art-Collections Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the National Art-Collections Fund 1919
PROVENANCE As for N03351
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1942 (62); National Art-Collections Fund: Sixty Years of Patronage, Arts Council, September–October 1965 (35)
LITERATURE Rossetti 1863, p.217 no.101n, and 1880, p.228 no.123n; Roe 1953, pp.68–9 no.14, repr.; Klonsky 1980, p.140, pl.14: Butlin 1981, p.560 no.812 14; Gizzi 1983, p.92 repr.; Fuller in Art History 1988, p.365
This is an illustration to Inferno VI, 113–15, and VII, 1–12. Plutus, the God of Wealth, guards the edge of the fourth Circle, that of the Avaricious, clutching his money-sack. Dante blurred the distinction between Plutus and Pluto, the God of the Underworld.
As Klonsky points out, Blake had attacked money in one of the inscriptions on his engraving of ‘The Laocoön’ of c.1820 (repr. Bindman Graphic Works 1978, pl.623, and Essick Separate Plates 1983, pl.51): ‘Where any view of Money exists Art cannot be carried on, but War only’.
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990