William Blake, 'Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils' circa 1826

William Blake
Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils circa 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

Blake returned several times to the figure of Job from the Old Testament. In the Bible story Job is made to suffer a series of terrible misfortunes which he endures with fortitude while struggling with his faith. Given his own struggles, Blake may have identified with Job, but he was also critical of his adherence to biblical laws rather than spiritual inspiration.

In 1823 Blake was commissioned by his friend, the artist John Linnell (1792–1882) to engrave a series of illustrations to the book of Job. The finished works display Blake’s commitment to the linear engraving techniques used by sixteenth-century German and Netherlandish artists whose works had long been considered ‘primitive’ compared to the more elaborate and delicate techniques of modern commercial printmakers. The final plates incorporate biblical quotes, paraphrases and marginal pictorial elements which extend and complicate the meanings of the main image.