A Portrait painting depicting the head and neck of John Milton from a left hand perspective. He is depicted blind and with shoulder-length hair, represented in a linear style suggestive of a relief carving. The head is framed within a compact wreath of entwined fruiting bay and oak from the lower right side, off which hangs an apple. Extending from the right to the left of the composition, behind the portrait, is a crested serpent seen against a dark background. Its tail is in a loop and its head features a wide-opened fanged mouth carrying an apple. The head is coiled round to face the portrait, seen in profile to the right from the perspective of the viewer. Palm trees enclose the image on the extreme right and left, against the palm on the left rests a harp, and a pipe is depicted next to the right hand palm.
John Milton about 1800-3 (removed from display) William Blake 1757-1827 Pen and ink and tempera on canvas For Blake, Milton (1608-1674) was a symbol of the poetic and Christian soul of England, eroded during the 1700s by classical culture. In his Preface to Milton - a Poem (1804) Blake wrote 'We do not want either Greek or Roman models if we are but just and true to our own Imaginations.' These lines are immediately followed by those which were later put to music as the popular hymn Jerusalem. While the head is based on prints by earlier artists, Blake introduces a serpent with an apple in reference to Milton's Paradise Lost. Purchased 1885.3
unframed: 40.1cm x 90.9cm
framed: 49.2cm x 99.1cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery