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

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Philadelphia Museum
Christ Baptising

Like the picture of Christ Entering Jerusalem, this picture of Christ Baptising is full of incongruities. We see the interior of a fine church with an ornate baptismal font. The baptism of the infant is performed by Jesus as a dove hovers over his head. The children surrounding Jesus appear as diminutive adults.

Rather than representing a particular scene, Blake has represented the concept of baptism by assembling aspects of multiple events involving baptism. The title refers to the passage in the gospel of John in which Jesus and his disciples entered the land of Judea and baptized people as did John. The descent of the dove takes us back to Jesus's own baptism by John following which the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. The scene inside a church can be associated with the baptism of William Blake as an infant. The window in the wall behind Jesus indicates the portal between the natural world and the Eternal world which is opened by baptism     

John 3
[22] After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized.
[23] John also was baptizing at Ae'non near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized.
[24] For John had not yet been put in prison.
[25] Now a discussion arose between John's disciples and a Jew over purifying.
[26] And they came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him."
[27] John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven.
[28] You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.

The infant William Blake was baptised in a prominent church of the Church of England. Knowing Blake's background as a dissenter and his aversion to religious ritual, one might find the manner of his baptism surprising. St James Piccadilly was a large church. The were seven infants baptised at the service on Dec 11, 1757 when the two week old William was baptised. The elaborate font pictured in Christ Baptising is far less ornate than the font in which he was baptised. 
Design of Last Judgment, to Osias Humphery, (E 553)
 " On the Right hand of the Throne of Christ is Baptism On
the left is the Lords Supper the two introducers
into Eternal Life Women with Infants approach the Figure of an
aged Apostle which represents
Baptism & on the left hand the Lords Supper is administerd by
Angels from the hands of another Apostle these
kneel on each side of the Throne which is surrounded by a Glory
many Infants appear in the Glory
representing the Eternal Creation flowing from the Divine
Humanity in Jesus who opens the Scroll of Judgment upon his knees
before the Living & the Dead
     Such is the Design which you my Dear Sir have been the cause
of my producing & which but for you might have slept till the
Last Judgment"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 561)
"He is the Bread & the Wine he is the Water of
Life accordingly on Each Side of the opening Heaven appears an
Apostle that on the Right 
Represents Baptism that on the Left Represents the Lords Supper
All Life consists of these Two Throwing off Error & Knaves from
our company continually & recieving Truth or Wise Men into our
Company Continually."

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