William Blake
The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth ?1805

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth
Date ?1805
Medium Tempera and gold on canvas
Dimensions Support: 740 x 627 mm
frame: 875 x 753 x 85 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1882
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

The subject of this picture is the prime minister, William Pitt. Blake showed this work in his exhibition in 1809, describing Pitt as ‘that Angel who, pleased to perform the Almighty’s orders, rides on the whirlwind, directing the storms of war.’

Pitt had led Britain into war against France after the 1789 Revolution. Blake saw him as one ‘ordering the Reaper to reap the Vine of the Earth, and the Plowman to plow up the Cities and Towers’. The words reflect Blake’s apocalyptic vision of war. The huge beast, Behemoth, is under Pitt and at his command.

December 2004