Blake, William (1757 - 1827)
The Empress Maud in Bed; A Vision from the Blake-Varley Sketchbook. Pencil. c.1819. Page 25 from the 'Blake-Varley Sketchbook'. Provenance: John Varley (1778-1842); William Mulready R.A. (1786-1863); Christie's, 28th-30th April 1864, lot 86; purchased by 'Kempton'; H. Buxton Forman; by whom given in 1870 to William Bell Scott (1811-1890); Penkill Castle, home of Miss Alice Boyd; by descent to Miss Eleanor Margaret Courtney-Boyd, 1897; by descent to Miss Evelyn May Courtney-Boyd, 1946; from whom purchased by M. D. E. Clayton-Stamm; the sketchbook was broken up and sold at Christie's, 15th June 1971, (this sheet lot. 163, illustrated); bought by Colnaghi; from whom acquired by Edward Croft-Murray (1907-1980). Exhibited: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1876 (the sketchbook); Tate Gallery, 1969-1971; Tate Gallery, William Blake, 1978, Cat. No.285. Literature: M. Butlin, The Blake-Varley Sketchbook of 1819 in the Collection of M.D.E. Clayton-Stamm, London, 1969, p. 24. David Bindman, Blake as an Artist, London, 1977 p.202; Martin Butlin, William Blake, Exh. Cat., Tate Gallery, 1978, Cat. No.285, ill. p.136; Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, Yale, 1981, Vol.I, p.498, Cat. No.692.25. 6.25x8 inches. Framed: 13.75x15.5 inches.

This is one of the 'visions' of historical, legendary and imaginary characters that Blake conjured during evenings spent at the house of John Varley O.W.S. (1778-1842). Blake's famous painting of the Ghost of a Flea (Tate) began life as one of these 'visions'. Some of the sheets were engraved by John Linnell (1792-1882) for Varley's Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy (1828). Empress Maud (1102-1167) - also known as Empress Matilda - was the daughter of Henry I. She married the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V and then Geoffrey of Anjou. On the death of Henry I, she returned to England and made a failed attempt to claim the English throne from her cousin Stephen. She briefly took the upper hand in the war with Stephen, but opposition to her rule prevented her from being crowned. She was instead styled Lady of the English. Her son succeeded Stephen as Henry II.

This work appears in the Exhibition: BRITISH WORKS ON PAPER 2024