Satan arousing the rebel angels

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artist
Blake, William
attributions_note
bibliography
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: V&A, 1985, p.90 The following is the full text of the entry: "William Blake 1757-1827 British School SATAN AROUSING THE REBEL ANGELS 1808 Signed W. Blake 1808in lower left hand corner Water-colour, 51.8 X 39.3 cm FA.697 Nathless he so endured, till on the beach Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks In Vallambrosa . . . Paradise Lost Book 1 299-303 Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels is one of twelve illustrations to John Milton's Paradise Lost. The set was commissioned by Thomas Butts, Blake's major patron of the 1800s. In depicting scenes from Milton, Blake was following a well-worn tradition; among his contemporaries, Fuseli, James Barry and Thomas Stothard had all done so. This particular subject was considered the most popular from Milton's epic, and Blake produced several versions. The Butts Satan, with its dominant full frontal figure, raised above the writhing forms of the fallen angels, all contained within a small picture area, has a precedent in Thomas Lawrence’s work of the same subject exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799. Whilst closely following the same compositional formula as his predecessors, Blake broke with tradition by evolving a highly personal and complex interpretation of Satan's rise and fall which was potentially in conflict with the spirit of Milton's poem. In the initial books of Paradise Lost Satan is a figure of terror and power: 'He called so loud, that all the hollow deep of Hell resounded'. This force is not suggested in Blake's water-colour. Blake's Satan has an Apollonian beauty as he tries to raise the seven enchained angels, hardly the legions 'thick as autumnal leaves' that Milton writes of. Satan's pose is also reminiscent of Glad Day, the first engraving Blake did in 1780. This raised nude figure with outstretched arms recurs repeatedly in Blake's work. In this instance, such familiarity with the pose tends to diminish the expressive potential necessary in depicting a truly Miltonic Satan. Alex Noble" Vikutoria & Arub?to Bijutsukan-z? : eikoku romanshugi kaigaten = The Romantic tradition in British painting, 1800-1950 : masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum / selected by Mark Evans [Japan : Brain Trust], 2002. 185 p. : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 30 cm.
collection_code
PDP
credit
date_end
1808-12-31
date_start
1808-01-01
date_text
1808 (painted)
descriptive_line
Watercolour entitled 'Satan arousing the rebel angels' by William Blake. Great Britain, 1808.
dimensions
Height: 51.8 cm, Width: 39.3 cm
edition_number
event_text
exhibition_history
Off the Page (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/01/2006-31/05/2006) Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost (Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum 01/07/2004-31/10/2004) The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Prefectural Museum of Art, Hyogo, Kobe, Japan 28/01/2003-06/04/2003) The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Koriyama City Museum of Art 22/11/2002-27/12/2002) The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Matsuzakaya Museum, Nagoya, Japan 19/10/2002-11/11/2002) The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan 24/08/2002-06/10/2002) William Blake 1757-1827 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 26/03/2001-24/06/2001) William Blake 1757-1827 (Tate 09/11/2000-11/02/2001)
gallery
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F
historical_context_note
Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels is one of twelve illustrations to John Milton's Paradise Lost. The set was commissioned by Thomas Butts, Blake's major patron of the 1800s. In depicting scenes from Milton, Blake was following a well-worn tradition; among his contemporaries, Fuseli, James Barry and Thomas Stothard had all done so. This particular subject was considered the most popular from Milton's epic, and Blake produced several versions. The Butts Satan, with its dominant full frontal figure, raised above the writhing forms of the fallen angels, all contained within a small picture area, has a precedent in Thomas Lawrence's work of the same subject exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799. Whilst closely following the same compositional formula as his predecessors, Blake broke with tradition by evolving a highly personal and complex interpretation of Satan's rise and fall which was potentially in conflict with the spirit of Milton's poem. In the initial books of 'Paradise Lost' Satan is a figure of terror and power :'He called so loud, that all the hollow deep of Hell resounded'. This force is not suggested in Blake's water-colour. Blake's Satan has an Apollonian beauty as he tries to raise the seven enchained angels, hardly the legions 'thick as autumnal leaves' that Milton writes of. Satan's pose is also reminiscent of 'Glad Day', the first engraving Blake did in 1780. This raised nude figure with outstretched arms recurs repeatedly in Blake's work. In this instance, such familiarity with the pose tends to diminish the expressive potential necessary in depicting a truly Miltonic Satan. [Alex Noble, '100 Great Paintings in the V&A', p.90]
historical_significance
history_note
This drawing may be the one listed by Rossetti as No.85a in his List I, but the set of 12 designs for 'Paradise Lost' to which it belonged are there dated 1807.
id
25195
label
last_checked
2014-08-29T21:03:52.000Z
last_processed
2014-08-29T21:03:52.000Z
latitude
54.313919
location
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case WD, shelf 105
longitude
-2.23218
marks
'WBlake 1808'
materials
water-colour
materials_techniques
Watercolour
museum_number
FA.697
museum_number_token
fa697
object_number
O25247
object_type
Watercolour
on_display
1
original_currency
original_price
physical_description
Satan stands, full frontal, with arms raised, weight on his left leg. He is surrounded by seven rebel angels, who crouch, lie and sit, writhing, on the rocks below. The angels have metal bands around their wrists. Painted in tones of grey and brown.
place
Britain
primary_image_id
production_note
production_type
public_access_description
Thomas Butts (1757-1845) commissioned the artist William Blake (1757-1845) to produce a series of watercolours. They were to illustrate John Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’, which was first published in 1667. Butts, a civil servant, was one of Blake’s most loyal patrons. Inspired by Milton’s text, Blake represents Satan and his angel accomplices as beautiful in appearance. He based the nude figures on classical sculpture and on drawings and paintings by Michelangelo (1475-1564).
related_museum_numbers
rights
3
shape
site_code
VA
slug
satan-arousing-the-rebel-angels-watercolour-blake-william
sys_updated
2014-08-21T00:00:00.000Z
techniques
title
Satan arousing the rebel angels
updated
vanda_exhibition_history
year_end
1808
year_start
1808