Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

LAST SUPPER

Letters, (E 703)
"Mr [George] Cumberland, Bishopsgate, Windsor Great Park
Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. Augst 26. 1799
Dear Cumberland
...
Pray let me intreat you to persevere in your Designing it is the only source of Pleasure all your other pleasures depend upon It. It is the Tree Your Pleasures are the Fruit. Your Inventions of Intellectual Visions are the Stamina of every thing you value. Go on if not for your own sake yet for ours who love & admire your works. but above all For the Sake of the Arts. Do not throw aside for any long time the honour intended you by Nature to revive the Greek workmanship. I study your outlines as usual just as if they were antiques. As to Myself about whom you are so kindly Interested. I live by Miracle. I am Painting small Pictures from the Bible. For as to Engraving in which art I cannot reproach myself with any neglect yet I am laid by in a corner as if I did not Exist & Since my Youngs Night Thoughts have been publishd Even Johnson & Fuseli have discarded my Graver. But as I know that He who Works & has his health cannot starve. I laugh at Fortune & Go on & on. I think I foresee better Things than I have ever seen. My Work pleases my employer & I have an order for Fifty small Pictures at One Guinea each which is Something better than mere copying after another artist. But above all I feel myself happy & contented let what will come having passed now near twenty years in ups & downs I am used to them & perhaps a little practise in them may turn out to benefit. It is now Exactly Twenty years since I was upon the ocean of business & Tho I laugh at Fortune I am perswaded that She Alone is the Governor of Worldly Riches. & when it is Fit She will call on me till then I wait with Patience in hopes that She is busied among my Friends. With Mine & My Wifes best compliments to Mrs Cumberland I remain
Yours sincerely
WILLm BLAKE"

One of the tempera paintings which Blake make for Thomas Butts in 1799 is a portrayal of the Last Supper. Blake created a dramatic image of Jesus and the twelve disciples involved in a scene where each displays his individual emotions at this critical juncture. Jesus himself, surrounded by the radiance, looks beyond his present circumstances to a future that is to be revealed. His hand gesture seems to be that of reluctant acceptance. 

Gathered around Jesus are the twelve men whom he chose as his special companions. Each seems to be in his own separate world: praying, contemplating the past or future, or meditating on the strange events which have taken place and where they might lead. Beside Jesus sits 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' appearing in Blake's portrayal to assume feminine characteristics. In the foreground to the left there might be Peter already traumatised by knowing he would be tempted to deny his Lord. To his right the two figures deep in discussion may be continuing their earlier discussion about who would be greatest in the kingdom. Most easily recognised is Judas to the right counting the coins he had accepted to betray Jesus to the authorities. Each disciple struggles with his own issues including doubts, awe, disappointment, fears and anticipation of possible outcomes.

National Gallery Washington
1799
Rosenwald Collection

A Descriptive Catalog, (E 543)
"Mr. B. has done, as all the ancients did, and as all the moderns, who are worthy of fame, given the historical fact in its poetical vigour; so as it always happens, and not in that dull way that some Historians pretend, who being weakly organized themselves, cannot see either miracle or prodigy; all is to them a dull round of probabilities and possibilities; but the history of all times and places, is nothing else but improbabilities and impossibilities; what we should say, was impossible if we did not see it always before our eyes."

Jerusalem , Plate 13, (E 157)
"And all that has existed in the space of six thousand years:
Permanent, & not lost not lost nor vanishd, & every little act,
Word, work, & wish, that has existed, all remaining still
In those Churches ever consuming & ever building by the Spectres
Of all the inhabitants of Earth wailing to be Created:
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them, meer possibilities:
But to those who enter into them they seem the only substances
For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
Plate 14
One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away." 

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