William Blake, Michelangelo before the Roman Colosseum, an engraving after a drawing by Henry Fuseli

England, AD 1801

An engraved vignette to Henry Fuseli's Lectures on Painting

During the time of William Blake (1757-1827) artists rarely engraved their own drawings; this was usually left to a reproductive engraver. From the age of fourteen Blake served a seven-year apprenticeship with James Basire (1730-1802), engraver to the Society of Antiquaries. This enabled the young artist to earn a living as an engraver, while pursuing his own artistic and poetic projects simultaneously. In his early years he mainly engraved the designs of his friend Thomas Stothard (1755-1834).

Blake developed a friendship with Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) in the 1780s. In 1799 Fuseli was elected Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts, delivering his Lectures on Painting from 1801. This engraving is the tailpiece to the third and last lecture of that year.

Although engravers often worked from finished pictures by other artists, it seems that it was not unusual for Fuseli to give them preliminary drawings from which to engrave. In the drawing for this print Fuseli left out the lower part of Michelangelo's body and the wall of the Colosseum, which Blake added himself.

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More information


D.H. Weinglass, Prints and engraved illustrati (Aldershot, Scolar, 1994)

R.N. Essick, William Blakes commercial book (Oxford, Clarendon, 1991)


Height: 119.000 mm
Width: 74.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1864-5-14-245



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