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William Blake (1757–1827)
Mirth, illustration to Milton's L'Allegro
Pen and brush, black and gray ink, watercolor
Signed in pen and black ink at lower right, Inv. W. Blake
6 3/8 x 4 13/16 inches (161 x 121 mm)
Purchased with the assistance of the Fellows with the special support of Mrs, Landon K. Thorne and Mr. Paul Mellon;
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This drawing is the first of a series of twelve watercolors executed by Blake around 1816–20 as illustrations to L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, two poems by John Milton (1608–1674), the Romantics' favorite poet.
Blake accompanied each watercolor with a transcription of Milton's text as well as an interpretation of the imagery.
Illustrating lines from L'Allegro, this drawing depicts the title figure of Mirth surrounded by the personifications of, among others, "Laughter holding both his sides" at center right; "Jest" and "Youthful Jollity," the boy and girl to the left and right of Mirth; and "Wreathed Smiles," the small spirits encircling Mirth's halo.
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