William Blake

Every Man also Gave him a Piece of Money. Verso: God the Father with Attendant Angels


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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William Blake 1757–1827
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper. Verso: graphite on paper
Support: 228 × 178 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981

Display caption

Blake published a set of engraved illustrations to the Book of Job in 1826. For this he drew new versions of his earlier watercolours, and added border designs.

This unfinished watercolour, however, is a design which Blake chose not to use, as is shown by comparison with the finished print. Job and his wife, seated in the centre, receive gifts from sympathetic family and friends, as in the print. However, here God the Father appears above them, and Blake has not yet addressed the border designs.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03233 ‘Every Man also Gave him a Piece of Money’ c.1821–3 (recto)
God the Father with Attendant Angels c.1821–3 (verso)

T 03233 / B 553
Recto: pencil, pen and watercolour, framing line 228×178 (9×7); Verso: pencil, approx. 95×150 (3 1/4×6); on paper 242×190 (9 1/2×7 1/2)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981.
PROVENANCE ? Mrs Blake; ? Frederick Tatham, sold Sotheby's 29 April 1862 (in 176, ‘“Job Sacrificing for his Friends”, three different designs in colours’) 15/- bt Col.Gould Weston; Alexander Anderdon Weston by 1876; his widow, sold anonymously Christie's 28 June 1904 (in 8 with another as ‘Job surrounded by his family’) £11.11.0 bt E. Parsons, sold 1904 to W. Graham Robertson, sold Christie's 22 July 1949 (20) £315 bt Agnew's for Kerrison Preston, sold Sotheby's 21 March 1974 (16, recto repr.) £9,500 bt Colnaghi's, from whom stolen 1976; recovered and offered Sotheby's 19 July 1979 (62, recto repr. in colour) bt in and sold 1981 to the Friends of the Tate Gallery
EXHIBITED BFAC 1876 (in 188, as ‘Job surrounded by his Family’); Bournemouth, Southampton and Brighton 1949 (27); 77th Annual Exhibition of Water Colour Drawings, Agnew's, January– March 1950 (78); Port Sunlight 1950 (19); Whitworth 1969 (30); Edinburgh 1969 (116); Hamburg and Frankfurt 1975 (204, recto repr.); English Drawings, Watercolours and Paintings, Colnaghi's, September–October 1976 (83, recto pl.6)
LITERATURE Rossetti 1880, p.226 in no.120 as of ‘1825 (?) - Job surrounded by his Family’, framed with another work; Robertson in Gilchrist 1907, p.491 no.6; Russell 1912, p.113; Binyon and Keynes 1935, 1, p.42; Preston 1952, pp.138–9 no.50, recto pl.46; Keynes Drawings, II, 1956, no.43, recto repr.; Keynes Bible 1957, p.22 no.73, recto repr.; Keynes Drawings 1970, no.79, recto repr. as frontispiece; Lindberg 1973, pp.22 no.xxiv, 338–9 no.19F; Butlin 1981, pp.423–4 no.553, recto colour pl.718; Martin Butlin, ‘A New Acquisition for the Tate and a New Addition to the Catalogue’, Blake, XV, 1981–2, pp.132–3, recto and verso repr.

The recto is an illustration to the Book of Job, xlii, 11, and is one of three sketches in pencil and watercolour painted by Blake in the early 1820s when he returned to the theme at the instigation of John Linnell who commissioned a second set of watercolours in 1821 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, and elsewhere; Butlin no.551, pls.733–53), and in 1823 engravings of the twenty-one designs plus a title-page; see nos.109–130. Most of the Linnell watercolours were finished by Blake on the basis of outlines copied by Linnell from the Butts set, but in certain cases there are considerable differences between the two series; the other two pencil and watercolour sketches, ‘Job's Sacrifice’ (City Art Gallery, Leeds; Butlin no.552, pl.754) and ‘Job and his Daughters’ (sold Christie's 10 July 1984 (225, repr. in colour); Butlin no.556, pl.757), seem to have been painted by Blake to help him in such cases.

The Tate watercolour, however, is a sketch for an alternative composition of the nineteenth design, an upright composition instead of an oblong one and with Job and his wife placed centrally, with people bringing them gifts from each side in a vaguely symmetrical composition, instead of being seated on the right with the giftbearers on the left; above, Blake has added God the Father, soaring aloft in an energetic circle of clouds and angels. Blake developed this upright composition in a pencil, pen and wash drawing (British Museum 1894-6-12-13; Butlin no.554, pl.755) and in the sketchbook containing rough, reduced-size pencil drawings for the engravings (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Butlin no.557 43, pl.779); Job and his wife are now shown seated at the foot of a tree. However, in the end Blake reverted to the original oblong composition for the engraved plate.

Graham Robertson (as reported by Kerrison Preston, loc. cit.) states that, when he owned the drawing, ‘behind the earthly group the sky glows faintly with tender gold and rose, till rising higher it frames the Angelic Vision in softest blue’. Now only the blue can be seen, and not even a trace of the ‘tender gold and rose’ can be detected by the Tate Gallery's Conservation Department. Graham Robertson described similar colours in ‘Job and his Daughters’ (ibid., p.140 no.51), but again only the blue remains. However, in the case of ‘Job's Sacrifice’ most of the colours he describes (ibid., p.136 no.49) can still be seen. Blue is usually the first colour to fade from a Blake watercolour, so the discrepancy between Graham Robertson's accounts and the present states of “Every Man also Gave him a Piece of Money” and ‘Job and his Daughters’ is difficult to explain.

The pencil sketch on the reverse seems to be an alternative idea for the group of God the Father with attendant angels on the recto; it is placed relatively low on the paper which precludes it from being the beginning of an alternative sketch of the whole composition. God the Father now holds a large scroll which forms an arc above His head, and there are fewer angels.

This work was sold in 1904 from the Gould Weston collection in the same lot as the pencil and watercolour sketch of ‘Job and his Daughters’ already referred to. It can therefore be presumed to be the work described by William Rossetti in 1880 as being framed with that work, and also the work exhibited with that work in 1876. Both works, together with the Leeds ‘Job's Sacrifice’, can therefore also be presumed to be the works sold by Frederick Tatham in 1862, and hence to have a provenance back to the artist's widow.

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

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