John Varley

Sketch for ‘Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy’

1828

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
John Varley 1778–1842
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
None
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1997
Reference
T07251

Display caption

When this sketch was worked up into an illustration for Varley’s book, the bird-like head (seen at bottom right) was said to represent ‘Cochabiel’, whom Varley describes as a Gemini. Blake’s Flea was also referred to as a Gemini, and it seems that Varley may have developed Blake’s ‘man/animal’ figure by inventing a hybrid of his own. In the text, however, he does not explain the significance of the man’s bird-like qualities.

Gallery label, March 2011