William Blake

The Blighted Corn

1821, reprinted 1977

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
William Blake 1757–1827
Wood engraving on paper
Image: 34 × 73 mm
Presented by British Museum Publications Ltd 1977

Display caption

Virgil’s First Eclogue is about farmers who had been dispossessed as a result of the civil war in Italy after Julius Caesar seized power in 49BC. Thenot (Tityrus) has retained his farm. Meliboeus (Colinet) has lost his.

Thenot agrees that Colinet was born in a ‘hapless…time’. The illustration of Blighted Corn echoes Virgil’s description of the state of chaos in the land. In his hymn Jerusalem Blake sings for those dispossessed of their ‘own Imaginations’ as he describes them in the Preface to Milton.

Gallery label, December 2004

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Catalogue entry

T02120 [from] Illustrations to Thorton's Pastorals of Virgil: Restrikes 1821/1977 [T02115-T02131; complete]

T02115–31 /-.
Seventeen wood-engravings on Japanese Hosho paper, each sheet approx. 121×153 (4 3/4×6)
Presented by British Museum Publications Ltd through Iain Bain and David Chambers 1977
PROVENANCE Printed for the donors 1977
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1978 (287–303, repr.)
LITERATURE As for A00111-A00127

Blake's woodblocks for his illustrations to Ambrose Philip's ‘Imitation of Virgil's First Eclogue’ in Dr Thornton's Pastorals of Virgil...Adapted for Schools were acquired by the British Museum in 1939 (1939-14-1-2 to 18). In 1977 one hundred and fifty sets of the seventeen engravings, together with an additional fifty impressions of the larger frontispiece, were printed for the British Museum by Iain Bain and David Chambers. The efforts taken to produce the optimum results are described in their introduction to the publication that goes with the restrikes. Despite some damages and warping certain details and gradations of tone were revealed which had not been picked out either in the early printings or in those from the electrotypes.

T02120 Plate 6: The Blighted Corn

Wood-engraving 34×73 (1 3/8×2 7/8)

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

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