William Blake (British, 17571827)
Watercolor, pen and black ink, over traces of graphite; 15 7/16 x 10 1/4 in. (39.2 x 26 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.81.1)
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down." Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets."
Blake does not illustrate the biblical text, but its miraculous origin. From his vantage point with the naturalistic foreground space, the diminutive figure of Saint John observes the divine vision that he will later record, embodied in the towering figure of the angel, perhaps inspired by the ancient statue of the Colossus at Rhodes. Indicating the source of his divine text with his heavenward glance and upraised arm, the angel points to the vision that unfolds about his person: above his fiery legs, seven horsemen, presumably embodying the seven thunders of the biblical text, charge through the clouds at the base of his cloak. The subtle coloring, stippled watercolor technique, and extensive pencil underdrawing indicate a date toward the middle of the series.