[Milton-L] Illustrated Comus Online

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Jun 14 22:02:35 EDT 2007

Sorry about the cross-posting...

Jim R

14 June 2007

The William Blake Archive <http://www.blakearchive.org> is pleased to
announce the publication of an electronic edition of Blake's
illustrations to John Milton's _Comus_.  This group of eight water
colors was acquired, and probably commissioned, by the Rev. Joseph
Thomas in 1801.  These designs, now in the Huntington Library and Art
Gallery, are presented in our Preview mode, one that provides all the
features of the Archive except Image Search and Inote (our image
annotation program).

In his _Comus_ designs, as is usual in his work as an illustrator of
other poets' writings, Blake paid close attention to the text, but
this disciplined approach did not preclude his own interpretations.
For example, Milton ends his masque with joyous dance and song, but
Blake ends his illustrations on a more serious note, as indicated by
the facial expressions of all six figures.  His selection of poetic
passages to illustrate reveals, in itself, Blake's emphasis on
unusual states of consciousness, including trances and visions.

The Thomas Set of _Comus_ designs shows strong outlines and
relatively subdued colors.  In about 1815, Blake's great patron
Thomas Butts commissioned a second suite of eight Comus
illustrations.  This later group, now in the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston, shows more interior modeling and an emphasis on complex
surfaces created with small brush strokes.  The Butts set is
forthcoming in the Archive.

As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no
access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is
made possible through the continuing support of the Library of
Congress, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at
the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, and by the cooperation of the international array of
libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to
reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.

Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
William Shaw, project manager
The William Blake Archive


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