Satan Exulting over Eve

Satan hovers in malevolent glory over Eve, who is entwined by his alter ego, the serpent of the Garden of Eden. The uneven, fibrous, opaque color of the ground under Eve distinguishes this area as printed, while the even sweep of the red washes shows that the flames behind Satan are mostly watercolor, a medium William Blake often used because he liked its transparent quality. Blake's images reflected his own very personal visions, which he insisted were "not a cloudy vapour or a nothing; they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all that the mortal and perishing nature can produce." The twelve large, color-printed drawings that he created in 1795 rank among his most complex works. To achieve the effects he envisioned, poet-painter Blake invented an innovative three-step process: 1) drawing the image with thick, sticky watercolors on a piece of stiff paper board; 2) stamping the sticky image on paper; and 3) working over the resulting print in watercolor washes and pen and ink. No more than three variants of each image are known to survive, each one unique.

Graphite, pen and black ink, and watercolor over a color print (1795)

by William Blake (British, 1757-1827)

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