William Blake, The Night of Enitharmon's Joy (Hecate)

Tate Britain, London

Date: c. 1795
Technique: Colour print finished in ink and watercolour on paper, 439 x 581 mm

The dense, dark colour-printing in the sky and the rocks suggests that this was the first of the three known impressions to be printed. Blake has used pen and ink to give strong outlines to the figures, and to draw locks of hair, the bat, and the donkey’s mane and rough coat. The figures have been given form and roundness by washes of intense but transparent colour. The owl’s eyes are highlighted with a bright, opaque red wash.

Enitharmon is a character in Blake’s mythology. In her ‘night of joy’ she sets out her false religion.

Hecate is a complex work that draws together allusions from Greek mythology, several of Shakespeare's plays, and Blake's own poetry. The three figures represent the tripartite nature of the goddess who in Greek mythology combined in her person aspects of the moon, earth and underworld, with power over the sky, earth and sea; she was also associated with witchcraft, magic and the supernatural. W .M. Merchant, Milton Klonsky and David Bindman relate the scene to sources in Blake's poetry, but the immediate allusion is to Shakespeare.

Source 1

Source 2

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