The Art of the Sublime

William Blake Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils c.1826

William Blake 'Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils' c.1826
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William Blake 1757–1827
Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils c.1826
Pen and ink and tempera on mahogany
support: 326 x 432 mm; frame: 380 x 483 x 37 mm
Presented by Miss Mary H. Dodge through the Art Fund 1918
Tate N03340
The biblical ‘Book of Job’ addresses the existence of evil and suffering in a world where a loving, all-powerful God exists. It has been described as ‘the most profound and literary work of the entire Old Testament’. In ‘Job’, God and Satan discuss the limits of human faith and endurance. God lets Satan force Job to undergo extreme trials and tribulations, including the destruction of his family. Despite this, as God predicted, Job’s faith remains unshaken and he is rewarded by God with the restoration of his health, wealth and family. Here Blake shows Satan torturing Job with boils.

From The Holy Bible (King James version), Book of Job, Chapter II, 3–10

3. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. 4. And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 5. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. 6. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. 7. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. 8. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. 9. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. 10. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

How to cite

William Blake, Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils c.1826, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/william-blake-satan-smiting-job-with-sore-boils-r1105612, accessed 18 September 2014.