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Vol. 51 no. 2: Fall 2017

A Newly Discovered Copy of Blake’s Adam and Eve Asleep

  • Joseph Viscomi
29 September 2017
29 Sep. 2017


When I first saw Adam and Eve Asleep, I was excited, thinking it may be evidence that the Linnell Paradise Lost designs were not a selection of just three designs but were once part of a full set of twelve, like the Thomas and Butts sets of 1807 and 1808, and that other designs from the set were waiting to be discovered. But when I looked more closely at the drawing and coloring, that idea and the idea that this design was by Blake began to fade. The nose, chin, lips, and eyes of the angel in profile looked wrong, wrong enough for me to enlarge and enhance the high-resolution image and compare the copy to its model in the Butts series. Comparing the foliage at the bottom of the design against its model reveals a similar hesitancy and indeterminacy not present in the model and in Blake’s late finished designs in general. The copyist did not understand the underlying structure of the foliage as plants or design any more than he did the finer features of the face.