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The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12: 1-4)

William Blake

European Art

The poet, printmaker, and painter William Blake combined his literary and graphic skills in four provocative and disturbing images devoted to the Great Red Dragon. For this series—produced for his most faithful patron Thomas Butts, a government clerk—Blake drew on chapters 12 and 13 of the Book of Revelations, an apocalyptic text akin to the artist's own prophetic writings.

In this narrative the Dragon, identified with Satan, schemes to seize the soon-to-be born Redeemer from his mother. Derived from the Virgin Mary of the Gospels, the figure known as the Woman Clothed with the Sun also stands for Israel and for the Church. Blake's threatening Dragon displays powerful musculature as well as its monstrous tail, wings, and horned heads. Subsequent scenes reveal the failure of the Dragon's plan but the emergence of new threats to mankind.
MEDIUM Black ink and watercolor over traces of graphite and incised lines
  • Place Made: England
  • DATES ca. 1803-1805
    DIMENSIONS Image: 17 3/16 x 13 11/16 in. (43.7 x 34.8 cm) Sheet (with inlay): 21 11/16 x 17 1/16 in. (55.1 x 43.3 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed bottom right: Monogram "WB inv"
    INSCRIPTIONS Inscribed above the image: "A Woman clothed with the sun, & the moon under her feet, and/upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and behold a great red dragon also." Inscribed below the image at right: "Revns:ch:12th: v 4th:" Inscribed below the image: "And the tail of the great red dragon drew the third part of the stars of/heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the/woman which was ready to be delivered for to devour her child as soon as it was born."
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of William Augustus White
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION William Blake (British, 1757-1827). The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12: 1-4), ca. 1803-1805. Black ink and watercolor over traces of graphite and incised lines, Image: 17 3/16 x 13 11/16 in. (43.7 x 34.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William Augustus White, 15.368
    IMAGE overall, 15.368_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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