John Varley
Sketch for ‘Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy’ 1828

Artwork details

John Varley 1778–1842
Sketch for ‘Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy’
Date 1828
Medium Graphite on paper
Acquisition Purchased 1997
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

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.

March 2011

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