- William Blake 1757–1827
- Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper mounted on canvas
- Unconfirmed: 432 × 534 mm
- Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Essick Foundation, Edwin C. Cohen and other benefactors honouring Martin Butlin, Keeper of the British Collection 1967-1989, 1996
Blake’s Satan bears none of the marks of depravity or bestiality that one might expect. Many 18th-century artists were heavily influenced by Milton’s Paradise Lost in which Satan appears as a sublimely heroic figure. In Blake’s picture, Satan’s evil nature may be seen to be distilled in the form of the snake. Lavater derived his reading of this creature from conventional Christian philosophy, but based his description on the paradoxical notion of the snake’s lack of form. ‘What has less, yet more physiognomy, than the serpent?’, he asks. ‘Can we not perceive in it tokens of cunning and treachery?’
Gallery label, March 2011
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