28 September – William Blake’s ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

William Blake, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, c.1799-1807. Pen and grey ink and watercolour. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Image released under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.

 

William Blake’s (1757-1827) watercolour of Jacob’s Ladder is one of about eighty watercolours which Blake made between about 1800 and 1806 for his loyal patron, the civil servant Thomas Butts (more of Blake’s works for Butts follow in tomorrow and Friday). In Genesis 28, Jacob has a dream in which he sees a staircase between heaven and earth with figures ascending and descending on it.

 

We do not know the precise date of this watercolour, but it may well have been inspired by a vision which Blake had shortly after he moved from London to Felpham, West Sussex in 1800, which he described in a poem addressed to Ann Flaxman, wife of the sculptor John Flaxman:

 

Away to Sweet Felpham for Heaven is there

The Ladder of Angels descends thro the air

On the Turret its spiral does softly descend

Thro’ the village then winds at My Cot it does end

You stand in the village & look up to heaven

The precious stones glitter on flights seventy seven

And My Brother is there & My Friend & Thine

Descend & Ascend with the Bread & the Wine

(‘To my dear Friend Mrs Anna Flaxman’)

 

The poem suggests that Blake felt that there was a connection between heaven and earth in Felpham. Having only known the smoggy air of London for the first 43 years of his life, one can well imagine that Blake felt that the veil between heaven and earth was thinner in Felpham – the kind of place one might encounter angels.

 

NAIB

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2 Comments

Filed under Daily Reflections

2 responses to “28 September – William Blake’s ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

  1. Reblogged this on Theology and the Arts in Sussex and commented:

    This is the first of three posts I have written for the Agnellus Mirror blog – associated with the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury.

    I was asked to write three posts on angels in William Blake’s images for ‘Angeltide’ (tomorrow is the feast of Michael and all Angels, and 1st October commemorates Guardian Angels) – my PhD research was on Blake, who famously saw angels in a tree on Peckham Rye, and elsewhere.

    This first post is particularly related to Blake’s time in West Sussex.

    Like

  2. An American here, who LOVES William Blake – looking forward to seeing and reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

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