The Angel Appearing to Zacharias

Artist: William Blake (British, London 1757–1827 London)

Date: 1799–1800

Medium: Pen and black ink, tempera, and glue size on canvas

Dimensions: 10 1/2 x 15 in. (26.7 x 38.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of William Church Osborn, 1951

Accession Number: 51.30.1


Blake devoted much of the year 1799–1800 to fifty visionary scenes drawn from the Bible, a commission he received from his principal patron, the government clerk Thomas Butts. About thirty of these works have been identified; it is thought that some have not survived owing to the fragility of the materials. This scene, the earliest in the New Testament narrative cycle, illustrates verses from Luke (I:11–13), in which Gabriel appears to the righteous Zacharias, a high priest of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, to announce that Zacharias’s elderly and barren wife will give birth to a son, Saint John the Baptist.