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Vol. 51 no. 2: Fall 2017

A Copy of Blake’s Adam and Eve Asleep

  • Robert N. Essick
29 September 2017
29 Sep. 2017


Martin Butlin has recently attributed to William Blake a previously unrecorded watercolor drawing of Adam and Eve Asleep based closely on the work of the same title in the series of Blake’s Paradise Lost designs commissioned by Thomas Butts in 1808. Butlin further claims that the newly discovered drawing is a fourth member of the John Linnell series of Paradise Lost designs of 1822 (Butlin no. 537), modeled on the Butts group. I first became aware of this work when a London art dealer kindly sent me a high-resolution JPEG image of it late in August 2016. My first reaction was that the drawing was both beautiful and unfinished, as I told the dealer in an e-mail. As I continued to study the work, I became increasingly disturbed by the weakness (or absence) of pen and ink outlining of forms and the awkward face of the rightmost angel. After e-mail discussions with a few fellow Blake enthusiasts, I concluded that the drawing is a copy of the Butts version by a hand other than Blake’s. This assessment is based on the digital image provided by the dealer; I have not seen the drawing itself.