« ZurückWeiter »
THE 'LAST JUDGMENT'
he comphouse, in md the
ONE of the finest pictures in the Blair's Grave is, as will be remembered, a Last Judgment. Blake drew this subject more than once. The design in the Grave series is more condensed than that which was the subject of the description printed (in a rather mixed way) in the second volume of Gilchrist, and of the letter to Ozias Humphry in the first. The form of the composition there referred to was built, as one would say of a house, in many more stories than are found in the Grave design. Had the scheme for the larger work been exactly reproduced in the Grave, on account of the comparative smallness of the folio page the figures would have been only a couple of inches or less in height. The group of trumpeters in the Grave design is a substitute, as will be seen, for a very different centre-piece in the lower part of this picture.
Gilchrist thinks that this picture was among the commissions claimed by Cromek as being won for Blake through the Grave publication, but it appears from his narrative that it was really ordered by the Countess of Egremont (to whom Hayley had introduced Blake) on the recommendation of Ozias Humphry, as Blake himself tells us.
The probability is that this design, which “occupied Blake during the year 1807," was in progress when Cromek visited Blake, and first commissioned the Grave series, and that it was the cause of that commission. Gilchrist thinks that it was “a repetition or enlargement of the most elaborate of the Blair drawings.” But everything in the appearance of the sketch (which corresponds to this description) that was shown at the Carfax Gallery suggests that it was an original form of the idea from which the Blair drawing was developed. The letter runs as follows:
The design of the Last Judgment, which I have completed by your recommendation for the Countess of Egremont, it is necessary to give some account of, and its various parts ought to be described for the accommodation of those who give it the honour of their attention.
Christ seated on the throne of Judgment: before His feet, and around Him, the heavens in clouds are rolling like a scroll ready to be consumed in the fires of Angels who descend with the four trumpets, sounding to the four winds. (In Blair they do not descend, but stand and blow upwards.)
Beneath, the earth is convulsed with the labours of the resurrection. In the caverns of the earth is the Dragon with seven heads and ten horns, chained by two Angels with chains, while her palaces are falling into ruins and her councillors are descending into the abyss in wailing and despair. (The whole of this cavern, which has so little earth around its entrance as to appear more like a catafalque a foot or two in thickness, is omitted in Blair, and its place occupied by the four standing angels with trumpets.) The right hand of the design is appropriated to the resurrection of the just. The left hand of the design is appropriated to the resurrection and fall of the wicked. (This description needs reversing. What Blake means, of course, is not the right and left hand of the design, but of the figure of Christ in the design.)
Immediately before the throne of Christ are Adam and Eve, kneeling in humiliation as representatives of the whole human race omitted in the Blair design). Abraham and Moses kneel on each side beneath them (also omitted). From the cloud on which Eve kneels is seen Satan, wound round by the serpent, falling headlong (removed to right of design, where he leads the fallers). The Pharisees appear on the left hand, pleading their own righteousness before the throne of Christ, and before the book of death, which is opened by two angels. (The angels are elderly men with beards and no wings, as are the Pharisees.) Many groups of figures are falling from before the throne, and from the sea of fire which flows before the steps of the throne, on which are seen the seven lamps of the Almighty, burning before the throne (the lamps omitted). Many figures, chained and bound together in various attitudes of despair and horror, fall through the air, and some are scourged by Spirits with flames of fire (the scourgers omitted) into the abyss of Hell, which opens beneath on the left side of the Harlot's seat (seat omitted), where others are howling and descending into the flames, and in the act of dragging each other into Hell, and of contending and fighting with each other on the brink of perdition. (This group is transferred to the lowest part of the centre, where the awakening skeleton was.)
Before the Throne of Christ, on the right hand, the just, in humiliation and exultation, rise through the air with their children and families, some of whom are bowing before the Book of Life, which is opened on clouds by two angels (young figures in robes without wings). Many groups arise in exultation. Among them is a figure crowned with stars and the moon beneath her feet, with six infants around her—she represents the Christian church (omitted). Green hills appear beneath the graves of the blessed, which are seen bursting with their births of immortality ; parents and children, wives and husbands embrace and arise together, and in exulting attitudes tell each other that the New Jerusalem is ready to descend upon earth; they arise upon the air rejoicing; others, newly awaked from the grave, stand upon the earth embracing, and shouting to the Lamb who cometh in the clouds with power and great glory. (There is no Lamb, and no one coming in either of the designs. The figure of Christ, in robes, with a book on His knee, sits still on a still throne, on a still platform.)
The whole upper part of the design is a view of heaven opened around the throne of Christ. In the clouds which roll away are four living creatures filled with eyes, attended by seven angels with seven vials of the wrath of God, and above these seven angels with the seven trumpets — these compose the cloud (all omitted and replaced by a golden arch of atmospheric cloud at the top of the picture), which by its rolling away displays the opening seats of the blessed, on the right and on the left of which are seen (dinily and far behind the Throne, no sitting figures except some of) the four and twenty Elders seated on Thrones to judge the Dead. (Is that orthodox ?)
Behind the seat and throne of Christ appear the Tabernacle, with its veil opened—the Candlestick on the right, the Table with the shewbread on the left, and in this the cross, in place of the ark, and the cherubim bowing over it (replaced by young angels with harps and wings).
On the right hand of the throne of Christ is Baptism, on the left is the Lord's Supper--the two introducers into Eternal Life. Women with infants approach the figure of an apostle, who represents Baptism, and on the left hand the Lord's Supper is administered by angels from the hands of another aged apostle. These kneel on each side of the throne (replaced by two young winged angels with notebooks who kneel right and left on lists of the saved and damned), which is surrounded by a glory ; in the glory many infants appear, representing Eternal Creation flowing from the Divine Humanity in Jesus, who opens the Scroll of Judgment upon His knees before the Living and the Dead.
Such is the Design, which you, my dear sir, have been the cause of my producing, and which, but for you, might have slept till the last judgment.
WILLIAM BLAKE. February 1808.
The date of this letter is, if Gilchrist is right, a year later than the commencement of the design from which so much was omitted in the Blair. It is the date perhaps of the completion of the first picture outside that series. “The design which I have completed," the letter begins.
Gilchrist adds that in the final years of Blake's life he repeated this as a fresco, “into which he introduced some thousands of figures, bestowing much finish and splendour of tint upon it.” He also says that Blake made it too heavy in trying to take the advice of a “Frenchwoman, a fellowlodger.” She perhaps wanted more unity, less of confusing “ making out of parts.” Again we see Blake willing to be taught, if only he could see any good artistic sense in what the teacher said.
Ozias Humphry, Gilchrist says, was “a miniature painter of rare excellence, whose faces have a peculiar sweetness and
refined simplicity in a now old-fashioned style.” He was “a patron, as well as a friend, for whom Blake had expressly coloured many of his illustrated books.” He painted Indian princes in India, and his sketches and notebooks are now in the British Museum.
This year, in 1808, Blake exhibited (“after nine years' interval”) two works at the Royal Academy, hung in the drawing and miniature room. The subjects were Christ in the Sepulchre, guarded by Angels, and Jacob's Dream.
BLAKE'S SECOND ACCOUNT OF HIS 'LAST JUDGMENT
PICTURE, FOR THE YEAR 1810 1
The Last Judgment is not fable or allegory, but Vision. Fable or allegory is a totally distinct and inferior kind of poetry. Vision, or imagination, is a representation of what actually exists really, and un. changeably. Fable or allegory is formed by the daughters of Memory. Imagination is surrounded by the daughters of Inspiration who in the aggregate are called Jerusalem.
Fable is allegory, but that which is called the Fable is Vision itself.
Fable or allegory is seldom without some vision. Pilgrim's Progress is full of it. The Greek poets the same. But allegory and vision ought to be known as two things, and so called for the sake of eternal life.
(After a paragraph cut out in the MS. and leaving broken words only)
The (? Ancients produce fable) when they assert that Jupiter usurped the throne of his father Saturn and brought on an iron age, and begot on Mnemosyne or Memory the great Muses, which are not Inspiration as the Bible is. Reality was forgot, and the accidents of Time and Space only remembered, and called reality. Such is the mighty difference between allegoric fable and spiritual mystery. Let it be here noted that the Greek Fables originated in Spiritual Mystery and real vision, which are lost and clouded in fable or allegory, while the Hebrew Bible and Greek Gospel are genuine, preserved by the Saviour's Mercy. The Nature of my work is Visionary or Imagination. It is an endeavour to restore what the Ancients called the golden age.
The Greeks represent Chronos, or Time, as a very aged man. This is fable; but the real vision of Time is an eternal youth. I have, however, somewhat accommodated my figure of time to the common opinion, as I myself am also infected with it, and I see Time aged--alas ! too much so.
Allegories are things that relate to moral virtues. Moral virtues do
? Such is the general subject of all the following in the MS. book :-These first paragraphs are arranged from somewhat disordered notes in the MS. book, which appear to have been intended as an introduction to the description of the composition representing the Last Judgment. Some occur in the course of the description. They were not sorted out by the author. The places of these in the MS, are indicated in footnotes.