William Shakespeare (British, Stratford-upon-Avon 1564–1616 Stratford-upon-Avon)
Relief etching, printed in color and finished with pen and ink and watercolor
sheet: 16 5/8 x 20 3/4in. (42.2 x 52.7cm)
Gift of Mrs. Robert W. Goelet, transferred from European Paintings, 1958
Not on view
Blake was inspired by lines from Macbeth (act 1, scene 7), in which the title character imagines the aftermath of his intended murder of Duncan, the king: "And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, hors’d Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye" Shakespeare’s similes are embodied here to form a dynamic interplay: a tiny baby springs from his mother towards an angel astride a blind steed. The artist inventively mixed relief etching with colors printed from millboard to produce the image, and then used ink and watercolor to define details. Blake called prints like this one "frescoes" and considered them part of a narrative sequence.
Signature: signed lower right: "W Blake inv."
Inscription: on verso at center: "Pity from Shakespeare's Macbeth"; and lower right: "Pity" (cut by trimming of paper)
(?) Catherine Blake (British, 1762–1831), wife of the artist; (?) Frederick Tatham (British, 1805–1878); W. Fuller Maitland (British, 19th century); Robert W. Goelet (American, 1841–1899); Mrs. Robert W. Goelet, widow of the preceding; Donor: Mrs. Robert W. Goelet
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," September 19, 1994–November 27, 1994.
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