William Blake

Job and his Daughters

1825, reprinted 1874

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
William Blake 1757–1827
Line engraving on paper
Image: 199 × 151 mm
Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the Art Fund 1919

Display caption

This is an illustration to chapter 42, verses 13-15 of the Book of Job. The main title comes from verse 15. The names of Job's daughters were Jemima, Kezia and Kerenhappuch. They are all seen against a background which depicts some of the trials Job has passed through. On the left is the destruction of his servants by the Chaldeans, described in Job, chapter 1, verse 17. On the right is the destruction of Job's ploughmen, described in chapter 1, verses 14-15. Behind Job's head God appears in the whirlwind. Blake treated this subject in his Job series and the print is shown nearby.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

A00031 [from] Illustrations to The Book of Job: Engravings 1823–6/1874 [A00012-A00032; T05845; complete]

A 00012–32 /-
Twenty-two line engravings on india paper laid on drawing paper approx. 510×345 (20×13 1/2)
Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the National Art-Collections Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the National Art-Collections Fund 1919
PROVENANCE John Linnell; his heirs, sold Christie's 15 March 1918 (183) £33.12.0.bt Martin for the donors
LITERATURE Gilchrist 1863, 1, pp.283–4, 297; Wicksteed 1910 and 1924; Russell Engravings 1912, 102–15 no.33: Keynes Bibliography 1921, pp.179–82 no.55: Binyon and Keynes 1935, series repr. vol.VI; Keynes Engravings 1950, pp.16–17, series repr.pls. 42–68; Keynes Writings 1957, pp.869–70, 872, 874, 876–7; S. Foster Damon, Blake's Job 1966, series repr.; Bentley Blake Records 1969, pp.234 n.i, 277–397 passim, 586–605; Andrew Wright Blake's Job: A Commentary 1972, series repr.; Lindberg 1973, pp.24–32, 40–52, 167–76, 183–352 nos.0A–21A, series repr.; Bentley Blake Books 1977, pp.517–24 no.421; Bindman Graphic Works 1978, pp.486–7 nos.625–46, series repr.; Mitchell 1978, pp.41–2; Essick Printmaker 1981, pp.92, 105, 220, 234–50, 252; Robert N. Essick, ‘Blake's Engravings to the Book of Job; An Essay on their Graphic Form with a Catalogue of their States and Printings’ in David Bindman, ed., William Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job 1987, pp.35–101.

John Linnell, who had commissioned the second set of watercolour illustrations to the Book of Job in 1821, entered into a formal agreement with Blake for the engravings on 25 March 1823: Linnell was to pay Blake £5 a plate or £100 for the set, and in addition he agreed to give Blake an extra £100 if the profits of the work made this possible. The agreement was for twenty engravings though in the event twenty-one subjects were engraved together with a title-page. On 5 March 1825 Linnell went with Blake to the printer J. Lahee to see proofs being taken. The series is dated 8 March 1825 but the final engravings do not seem actually to have been ready until the end of March 1826 (Bentley 1969, pp.277, 300 and 327). At this time 215 sets of engravings marked ‘Proof’ were issued; these should be distinguished from the working proofs, on some of which Blake tried out designs for the borders. The word ‘Proof’ was then deleted (traces can be seen on A00013) and a further 100 sets were printed on drawing paper. According to John Linnell Jr, writing to Bernard Quaritch on 6 May 1892, Linnell, after the 1826 printing, ‘put the plates away, & they were never again used after this time until the year 1874. At this time my father...had one hundred copies printed from the plates upon India paper’. Although the distinctive cover is now missing, it seems that the Tate Gallery's copies of the engravings are from this 1874 printing. The original plates were given by Herbert Linnell to the British Museum Print Room on 28 May 1919.

Each engraving is inscribed ‘W Blake inv. & sculp’. In addition each is inscribed in the lower margin with variations of the text ‘London. Published as the Act directs March 8:1825 by William Blake No3 Fountain Court Strand’; the first actual design (A00012) is mistakenly dated with the year 1828 and ‘Willm’ is sometimes substituted for ‘William’, while the punctuation is also slightly varied.

More importantly, the borders of each design bear a number of inscriptions taken from the Bible or with variations of biblical texts. These add a verbal gloss to the designs which in themselves embody Blake's critical reaction to the original story as set out in the Old Testament. The fullest analysis is in Lindberg though Wicksteed, Damon 1966 and Wright also contain full commentaries. Blake's interpretation of his text is only given in summary form in this catalogue.

These engravings were formerly inventoried as nos.3372 i–xxii. The new inventory numbers omit the title-page.

A00031 Job and his Daughters

Line engraving 199×151 (7 13/16×5 15/16); platemark 217×170 (8 5/8×6 11/16)

Inscribed ‘WBlake invenit & Sc’ b.r., ‘London Published as the Act directs March 8:1825 by William Blake No3 Fountain Court Strand’ below, ‘20’ t.r., and with texts given below

EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1958 (203, repr.)

Illustration no.20: Job, xlii, 13–15. The main text is ‘There were not found Women fair as the Daughters of Job/in all the Land & their Father gave them Inheritance/ among their Brethren’ (Job, lxii, 15). The two other quotations are from the Psalms: ‘How precious are thy thoughts/unto me O God/how great is the sum of them’ (Psalms, cxxxix, 17), and ‘If I ascend up into Heaven thou art there/If I make my bed in Hell behold Thou/art there’ (Psalms, cxxxix, 8).

The Book of Job contains no more than a passing reference to Job's three daughters (and seven sons), to their beauty and to how Job gave them their inheritance; their names are also given, Jemima, Kezia and Keren-Happuch. Lindberg points out that Blake has drawn on the apocryphal Testament of Job in which Job, shortly before his death, tells his daughters of his afflictions and of his salvation. In the main design Job points out, on the walls of the room, depictions of incidents from his life. They are, on the left, the destruction of his servants by the Chaldeans (Job, i, 17) with Satan hovering overhead, on the right that of his ploughmen (by Satan himself, again shown hovering overhead, rather than by the Sabeans mentioned in Job, i, 15), and in the centre God appearing in the whirlwind (see design 13, no.122).

All the other versions of this composition among the various Job series and related sketches show the scene at least partially out of doors. However, in this, apparently the last version of the subject, Blake reverts to the interior setting of the small tempera painted c. 1799–1800 for Thomas Butts (Butlin 1981, no.394, colour pl.500).

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

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