William Blake The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan c.1805–9

Share this artwork

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan
Date c.1805–9
Medium Tempera on canvas
Dimensions Support: 762 x 625 mm
frame: 912 x 785 x 75 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1914
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

Blake showed this painting in his 1809 exhibition. Admiral Lord Nelson is directing Leviathan, a great biblical sea monster which Blake used as a symbol of war.

This work is cracked and damaged because Blake used a thin canvas and chalk-based ground. The ground layer has darkened due to the conservation treatment of ‘glue’ lining; this is only suitable for oil paintings. Layers of glue in some of Blake’s paints have also darkened. The orange tonality comes from remnants of a discoloured varnish. The contraction of the glue-rich layers and the movement of the thin canvas has created stress, causing cracking.

September 2004

About this artwork