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Blake image

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; 1949.4:1
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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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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.