Tuesday, February 4, 2020

It's Just Business

Portrait of Blake from The Grave
We have blogged before about the rivalry between William Blake and Thomas Stothard over their competing images of the Canterbury Pilgrims. We have both engravings in our collection and they are very cool when set side by side. Their interpretation of Chaucer, while very similar in composition, is wildly different in style.

Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims
But what got us interested in this again was something we found in Blake's illustrated edition of Robert Blair's The Grave. While flipping though The Grave the other day, we were a little more than shocked to find a three-age prospectus for for Stothard's "Canterbury Pilgrims" at the end of the book. How could this be?
Prospectus for Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims
It turns out the publisher, R. H. Cromek (really more an impresario) who produced Blake's rendition of The Grave, was also into Stothard, and he was responsible for issuing Stothard's "Canterbury Pilgrims". That must have angered Blake since he considered Stothard's design a rip off of his own work. There is another connection--the engraver. In each case Cromek hired L. Schiavonetti to execute the actual engravings. So, here you have the impresario, the two competing artists, and the engraver in a kind of unholy mess of art, business, and conflicting personalities--wait, I guess that's par for the course.

Come take a look at the trinity by asking for Val 825B57 R31 (The Grave), Iconography 1661 (Stothard's Chaucer), and Iconography 1596 (Blake's Chaucer).

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