William Blake The Head of the Ghost of a Flea. Verso: A Profile and a Reduced Drawing of Milton’s First Wife c.1819

Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
The Head of the Ghost of a Flea. Verso: A Profile and a Reduced Drawing of Milton’s First Wife
Date c.1819
Medium Graphite on paper. Verso: graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 189 x 153 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
Reference
N05184
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Display caption

When they were introduced in 1818, the astronomer and artist John Varley was struck by Blake’s visionary capacity. As a mutual friend put it, Varley ‘readily devoured all the marvellous in Blakes most extravagent utterances’ [sic]. Varley encouraged Blake to draw the figures that appeared to him, resulting in a series of so-called ‘visionary heads’. This unusual example was then used by Varley as an illustration of ‘Gemini’ in his Zodiacal Physiognomy (see the reproduction on the plinth by this showcase). Blake later developed the sketch to produce a finished tempera, hanging nearby.

March 2011

About this artwork