BLAKE, William
(b. 1757, London, d. 1827, London)

Pity

c. 1795
Colour print finished in ink and watercolour, 425 x 539 mm
Tate Gallery, London

This image is taken from Macbeth: "pity, like a naked newborn babe / Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim horsed / Upon the sightless couriers of the air". Blake draws on popularly-held associations between a fair complexion and moral purity. These connections are also made by Lavater, who writes that "the grey is the tenderest of horses, and, we may here add, that people with light hair, if not effeminate, are yet, it is well known, of tender formation and constitution".

There are three full-size versions of this design, one in Tate Gallery, London, one in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and one at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. None of the prints are dated, nor do they bear dated watermarks, but all seem to date from the initial phase of Blake's work on his large colour prints, c.1795. The sequence of the three pulls seems to have been Tate Gallery, Metropolitan Museum and Yale Center.