William Blake 1757–1827
The Simoniac Pope
Medium Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 527 x 368 mm
Acquisition Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the the Art Fund 1919
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
In Hell, Dante and Virgil meet those guilty of simony (buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment). Like all simoniacs, Pope Nicholas III is punished by being suspended head downwards in a well of fire.
The paper is watermarked ‘W ELGAR 1794’, the year it was produced. It was then bound into book form. The parallel lines in the paper show it is ‘laid’. This means it has more texture than Blake generally used, but the weight of the book would have flattened it. The two sides of the paper have different textures: Blake used both sides for his illustrations.
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