Satan hovers in malevolent glory over Eve, who is entwined by his alter ego, the serpent of the Garden of Eden. The uneven, fibrous, opaque color of the ground under Eve distinguishes this area as printed, while the even sweep of the red washes shows that the flames behind Satan are mostly watercolor, a medium William Blake often used because he liked its transparent quality.
Graphite, pen and black ink, and watercolor over a color print
Book 4, line 813; Satan springing up with his shield raised behind his head, grasping his spear, starting back to right, driven from his disguise as a toad at the touch of a spear by Ithuriel who stands on the left with Zephon, while Adam and Eve sleep in the background; illustration to John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. 1825
(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Depiction of the temptation of Eve from the Bible story in the book of Genesis. The naked figure of Eve stands beneath the Tree of Knowledge on a carpet of blue, white and yellow flowers and grass, with one hand leaning against the earthen bank behind her, the other reaching up over her head to grasp an apple. Eve faces the viewer, her head turned to the right of the picture, her eyes blankly gazing down and her left foot in front of her right.
She has long blonde hair which hangs behind her and swoops up at her right hip to cover her genital area. A blue serpent, with a hideous human head and red hair, entwined about the trunk and branches of the tree, whispers temptation, in the form of steamy breath, into Eve’s ear. A small, Italian-style cypress trees and a path winding through grass can be seen in front of the red brick garden wall in the background.
How the art was made: Pencil and watercolour with gum arabic, heightened with body colour and gold, on paper wrapped around a wooden stretcher.