William Blake

Composition Sketch, Possibly a Subject from Dante. Verso: A Man Standing over a Figure Reclining on a Bed

?1824–7, ?c.1800–10

Not on display

William Blake 1757–1827
Graphite on paper. Verso: graphite on paper
Support: 454 × 339 mm
Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922

Catalogue entry

A00047 Composition Sketch, Possibly a Subject from Dante 1824–7 (?) (recto)
A Man Standing over a Figure Reclining on a Bed c.1800–1810(?) (verso)

A 00047 / B 826
Pencil 454×339 (17 7/8×13 3/8), the verso horizontal in format, on paper watermarked ‘JWHATMAN’
Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922
PROVENANCE Mrs Blake; Frederick Tatham; his brother-in-law George Richmond, sold Christie's 29 April 1897 (in 147 with 22 other items; see no.2) £2. 10.0 bt Dr Richard Sisley; his daughter Mrs John Richmond
LITERATURE Butlin 1981, p.594, no.826, pls.1077 and 1078

The recto, which appears to show two figures in a sailing boat with three further figures in the water, is similar in style to the drawing for ‘The Vestibule of Hell and the Souls mustering to Cross the Acheron’ in the British Museum (Butlin 1981, no.815, pl.1076). It may show another scene to do with the souls crossing the Acheron in Charon's bark or an incident on the Stygian Lake, Inferno Cantos VII and VIII, but it is not recognizably related to any of the finished watercolours.

The drawing on the verso appears to show a man threatening a figure lying on a bed. The sun appears in the top right-hand corner and there is a crescent moon low down on the left. The style suggests an earlier date than the recto, possibly c.1800–10.

Rossetti lists a drawing of a similar subject then in the possession of the dealer Francis Harvey, ‘A Man approaching a recumbent Woman...Slovenly, with no point of merit save the freedom of action’ (1863, p.253 list 2 no.152, and 1880, p.272 list 2 no.181). This is otherwise untraced (see Butlin no.858) but could be this drawing, though if so the provenance for the group of drawings in the Tate Gallery from the Richmond collection would have to be altered, with Harvey buying them at the Tatham sale on 29 April 1862 and George Richmond acquiring them either directly from him or later.

This work was formerly inventoried as no.3694 xx.

Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990


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