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A Husband Parting from His Wife and Child; Two Assassins Lurking in Ambush

William Blake, English, 1757 - 1827

Made in England, Europe


Pen and ink and watercolor over graphite on paper

Composition: 11 7/8 x 8 7/8 inches (30.2 x 22.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. William Thomas Tonner, 1964

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Blake himself described the subject of this watercolor in a letter of 16 August 1799, to the man who commissioned it, the Reverend Dr. John Trusler: "A Father, taking leave of his Wife & Child, Is watch'd by Two Fiends incarnate, with intention that when his back is turned they will murder the mother & her infant. If this is not Malevolence with a vengeance, I have never seen it on Earth." Defending himself against Trusler's criticism of an unnatural use of fantasy in the work, Blake stated that in this composition he was "compell'd by my Genius or Angel to follow where he led," which was to an original and independent style. In the end Trusler rejected the watercolor, and Blake accused him of having "fall'n out with the Spiritual World" and of having an eye "perverted by caricature prints."