This is a left-side portrait view of Edmund Spenser. He is depicted with short, curly hair, a moustache and slight beard; covering his neck is a lace collared garment edged with a spiked border and a medallion suspended at the throat. The portrait is contained within a circular olive-wreath border with an outer border of flying nymphs with hands linked. Standing to the right of the portrait, in profile to the left, is the figure of an old and bearded man, a shepherd, with floor-length robes and holding a staff that leans against his left shoulder; his right hand strokes his beard in contemplation; above the figure are two stars. To the left of the portrait is a female figure, in three-quarter view to the right, crouching in the crescent of a new moon with a star above; she wears a long gown with a crown and ruff.
Portrait of Edmund Spenser about 1800-1803 William Blake 1757-1827 Pen and ink and tempera on canvas Blake painted the heads of eighteen poets for his patron William Hayley. The essentially decorative group originally hung in the library at Hayley's home in Felpham, Sussex. This design is one of the most imaginative as Spenser was among Blake's favourite writers, echoing a broader revival in Elizabethan poetry. The surrounding figures were perhaps inspired by Spenser's The Shepherd's Calender (1579), which pays tribute to Elizabeth I. The Queen is portrayed on the poet's medallion and possibly sits in the crescent moon. Purchased 1885.5
Canvas: 42cm x 84cm
Frame: 52.1cm x 91.5cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery