William Blake (British, 17571827)
Color print finished with pen and ink and watercolor; sheet: 16 5/8 x 20 3/4 in. (42.2 x 52.7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Robert W. Goelet, 1958 (58.603)
The existence of a unique proof print (British Museum), in which Blake experimented with his technique on a small scale, suggests that Pity was the first large color print produced by the artist. The child and rider illustrate a double simile from Shakespeare's Macbeth (1:7), in which Macbeth considers the pitiable reaction to his murder of Duncan in terms of vulnerability and vengeance, the human and the supernatural:And pity, like a naked newborn babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind.