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Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other Book? Is it not because [it is] addressed to the Imagination, which is spiritual sensation...?

Blake to Dr Trusler (23 August 1799)

In the biblical account Satan strikes a wager with God over Job (the perfect, God-fearing man) claiming that his piety and obedience are due merely to his material wealth. God allows Satan to test Job through various torments. Despite years of terrible suffering Job does not reject God, though he comes to realize that it is not enough to adhere to the letter of the law; one must embrace it in spirit. He is rewarded by God with a return of abundant good fortune.

The set of illustrations of the Book of Job is the last series that Blake fully completed. The engravings were commissioned by John Linnell as a means of providing Blake with badly needed financial assistance. A formal agreement was drawn up in March 1823 according to which Blake would receive 5 per plate or 100 for the set, plus profits from the sales.

The compositions are based on a set of watercolours originally made as far back as c. 1805-6 and later traced and worked up. Blake's Job unfolds as a metaphysical commentary that takes the form of an emblematic narrative in which Blake employs the traditional technique of line engraving in quite unconventional ways. He uses the margins to provide visual and textual emphasis to points of meaning, and he incorporates symbolic images from his personal mythology, combining them with quotes and paraphrases from other biblical texts. His interpretation is personal, profound and many-layered and it has been explained in various ways. A summary of the varying interpretations appears in the catalogues. A point of departure for these critical appraisals is Blake's belief in the centrality of the poetic vision or spiritual awareness which is paralleled by the story of Job's own spiritual awakening.


Title Page

Job and His Family (Plate 1)

Satan Before the Throne of God (Plate 2)

The Destruction of Job's Sons (Plate 3)

The Messenger Tells Job of His Misfortunes (Plate 4)

Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord (Plate 5)

Satan Smiting Job with Boils (Plate 6)

Job's Comforters (Plate 7)

Job's Despair (Plate 8)

The Vision of Eliphaz (Plate 9)

Job Rebuked by His Friends (Plate 10)

Job's Evil Dreams (Plate 11)

The Wrath of Elihu (Plate 12)

The Lord Answering Job Out of the Whirlwind (Plate 13)

The Creation (Plate 14)

Behemoth and Leviathan (Plate 15)

The Fall of Satan (Plate 16)

The Vision of God (Plate 17)

Job's Sacrifice (Plate 18)

Job Accepting Charity (Plate 19)

Job and His Daughters (Plate 20)

Job and His Wife Restored to Prosperity (Plate 21)


(c)1999 National Gallery of Victoria