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A Vision of the Last Judgment

William Blake (London 1757 - London 1827)

Category

Art / Drawings and watercolours

Date

18 Feb 1808 (letter to Ozias Humphry) - 1808 (signed and dated)

Materials

Pencil, pen and watercolour on paper

Measurements

503 x 400 mm (20 x 15 1/2 in)

Place of origin

London

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Collection

Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)

On show at

North Gallery, Petworth House and Park, West Sussex, London and South East, National Trust

NT 486270

Caption

This is signed and dated to 1808. It was commissioned by the Countess of Egremont in 1807 and was inspired by Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. Blake based his portrayal of the Last Judgement on his belief that God's love allowed for a personal apocalypse as part of the human experience. In the notes to the work, he claimed that ‘whenever any individual rejects error & embraces truth a Last Judgment passes upon that individual.’

Summary

Watercolour, pen and ink and pencil on paper (previously mounted on a canvas and stretcher, in 1957 it was remounted on cardboard), A Vision of the Last Judgment by William Blake (1757-1827), inscribed: W. Blake (WB in monogram) inv. and del. 1808. Christ is depicted enthroned among the Blessed at the top. In the centre, the Angels of the Judgment Day sound trumpets. At left, the Blessed can be seen rising in a stream towards the throne and at right, the damned drop into Hell where Appolyon is seated, six-headed and bound.

Full description

Following Satan calling up his Legions (NT 486264), 'A Vision of the Last Judgment' was the second painting commissioned from Blake by Elizabeth Ilive, Countess of Egremont (1769-1822). It is the third in a series of works dealing with the subject of the Last Judgment and was potentially adapted in reflection of its client’s circumstances, regarding which its themes were certainly pertinent. The first version (Glasgow Museums) was done for Blake's principal patron, the London-based civil servant Thomas Butts (1757–1845), as was a subsequent related work, 'The Fall of Man' (Victoria & Albert Museum). The present work was one of very few works by Blake to be shown at the Royal Academy, where he exhibited only twelve pictures in his lifetime and never again after 'A Vision of The Last Judgment'. The work, which went unnoticed by the reviewers, echoes in part the version of the subject in the Sistine Chapel by Blake’s hero Michelangelo. Uniquely in Blake’s art, the iconography of 'A Vision of the Last Judgment' is fully explained by the artist in a descriptive note, which survives in three autograph versions, one of which is in the Petworth House Archive (no. 87). Text adapted from William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, ed. Andrew Loukes, National Trust in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2018, p. 95.

Provenance

Commissioned by the Countess of Egremont in 1807 on the recommendation of Ozias Humphry, RA (see Blake's letter, 18 February 1808); thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-1972) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by HM Treasury

Credit line

Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1956 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

W.BLAKE INV. and del. 1808 (inscription reproduced exactly from Collins Baker)

Makers and roles

William Blake (London 1757 - London 1827), artist

Exhibition history

William Blake - The Artist, Tate Britain, London, 2019 - 2020 Blake & British Visionary Art, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, 2011 - 2012

References

Collins Baker 1920 C.H.Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures, in the possession of Lord Leconfield, privately printed by the Medici Society, London, 1920, p. 6 no. 454, transcribed letter: “To OZIAS HUMPHREY, Esq. February 18, 1808 William Blake.” Collins Baker 1920 C.H.Collins Baker, Catalogue of the Petworth Collection of Pictures, in the possession of Lord Leconfield, privately printed by the Medici Society, London, 1920, p. 6. no. 454, transcribed letter:“To OZIAS HUMPHREY, Esq. February 18, 1808 William Blake.” Gilchrist 1863 & 1880 Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake, ‘Pictor Ignotes’ with Selections from his Poems and Other Writings, 2 vols, London and Cambridge, 1863, 2 vols, London and Cambridge, 1863, vol.I, p.212; vol.II, p.209, no.74, (with an annotated catalogue of Blake’s paintings and drawings by William Michael Rossetti). Further edition published in 1880; vol.I, pp.260-2; vol.II, p.218, no.89. William Blake, (ed. A.G.B.Russell), Tate Gallery, 1913, no.40 (under entry for Stirling-Maxwell version) William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, edited by Andrew Loukes, National Trust in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2018.

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