Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Anatomy of a Cultural Sin

The following detailed provenance has applied to all 19 of the drawings by William Blake that are up for auction a week from this coming Tuesday.

PROVENANCE
Mrs. Robert Cromek;
Thomas Sivright, Edinburgh;
his sale, Edinburgh, C.B. Tait, February 1, 1836, and sixteen following lawful days, lot 1835, ‘Volume of Drawings by Blake, Illustrative of Blair’s Grave, entitled “Black Spirits and White, Blue Spirits and Grey”,’ for £1-5s-0d, possibly to John Stannard (1794-1882);
Henry Lawrence Stannard (1934-2001);
given to a relative in 1987;
Caladonia Books, Glasgow, 2001;
purchased from the above, Fine Books, Ikley and Bates & Hindmarsh, Leeds, by the present owner,
December 2002.
As noted in this earlier post, one piece from this series has already been separated from the group, but since 1836, these other 19 drawings have remained a set, travelling from safekeeper to safekeeper together. Come Tuesday, May 2, it's very unlikely they'll continue to do so. You may have to register to see these links (not sure...I'm registered), but the following 19 individual lots very likely represent the end of opportunity for convenient study of Blake's wonderous drawings together. The dollar amount after each represents the estimate for that individual lot:


1
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, INSCRIBED TITLE-PAGE DESIGN FOR 'THE GRAVE'(THE
SKELETON RE-ANIMATED)
180,000 - 260,000 USD

2
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
THE MEETING OF A FAMILY IN HEAVEN(A FAMILY
MEETING IN HEAVEN)
280,000 - 360,000 USD

3
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, DEATH OF THE STRONG WICKED MAN(THE STRONG WICKED
MAN DYING)
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD

4
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, THE GRAVE PERSONIFIED
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD

5
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, WHILST SURFEITED UPON THY DAMASK CHEEK, THE
HIGH-FED WORM IN LAZY VOLUMES ROLL'D, RIOTS UNSCAR'D
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

6
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, THE REUNION OF THE SOUL & THE BODY (THE
RE-UNION OF SOUL AND BODY)
900,000 - 1,200,000 USD

7
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
THE SOUL HOVERING OVER THE BODY RELUCTANTLY
PARTING WITH LIFE(THE SOUL HOVERING OVER THE BODY)
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

8
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, THE DESCENT OF MAN INTO THE VALE OF DEATH
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

9
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT(THE LAST JUDGMENT)
1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD

10
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, DEATH'S DOOR
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD

11
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
THE SOUL EXPLORING THE RECESSES OF THE GRAVE
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

12
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, THE GAMBOLS OF GHOSTS ACCORDING WITH THEIR
AFFECTIONS PREVIOUS TO THE FINAL JUDGEMENT
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

13
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
THE COUNSELLER, KING, WARRIOR, MOTHER &
CHILD, IN THE TOMB(THE COUNSELLOR, KING, WARRIOR, MOTHER & CHILD)
700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

14
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, THE DEATH OF THE GOOD OLD MAN (THE GOOD OLD MAN
DYING)
550,000 - 700,000 USD

15
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, A FATHER AND TWO CHILDREN BESIDE AN OPEN GRAVE AT
NIGHT BY LANTERN LIGHT
350,000 - 550,000 USD

16
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, HEAVEN'S PORTALS WIDE EXPAND TO LET HIM IN
350,000 - 550,000 USD

17
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827, OUR TIME IS FIX'D, AND ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBER'D
350,000 - 550,000 USD

18
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
CHRIST DESCENDING INTO THE GRAVE(THE DESCENT OF
CHRIST INTO THE GRAVE)
350,000 - 550,000 USD

19
WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON 1757 - 1827,
'FRIENDSHIP'
180,000 - 260,000
USD
The "present owner" of all 19 is a group of investors headed by the London art dealer Libby Howie. Her motive in breaking up the set is simply to see as large a return on their investment as possible. That's fine for a bottom-line obsessed banker or stock broker, but for a supposed authority and protector of culture it's a sin.

Of course Howie and her co-conspirators won't object if someone buys all 19 drawings, so long as they do so one at a time, ensuring the maximum price is paid, knowing that the buyer would likely go well above the estimates on the last piece to ensure a complete purchase. And therein lies the truly gruesome cynicism of their plan.


But that outcome is not very probable. More likely the individual drawings will scatter, and this wonderous vision will be watered down by distance and the difficulties of gathering them for scholarship. Re-gathering them, I should say.

Should a potential buyer for the whole set emerge, anyone who purposely tries to purchase only one of these drawings should be very ashamed of themselves.

6 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

I had a dream about this last night. Blake was cackling and shouting, "Burn the F-ing things!"

. . . he looked a lot like my dad . . .

4/19/2006 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

right on ed, you tell it.

4/19/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

Ed - another great post. A tragedy for sure, expect more moves of this nature as we race to the bottom. I wonder how much time will elapse before the new 'owners' try to move them to the next group of speculators.

4/19/2006 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Ditto.

4/19/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous eva l. said...

By the way, I've learned that Mrs. William Blake helped him with all of the hand painting on the covers of his books. Who knows what else she contributed?

4/19/2006 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

All these years on and I've just found out about this when I googled 'Our Time is Fix'd...' after reading about the 'rediscovery' of the picture in 2001. Then I found out there were another 19! A deeply cynical move by Libby Howie but in tune with the times. Perhaps we should appropriate an image from the Lurianic kabbala - the process of tikkun - to strive for the reunification of these scattered fragments. One day...

12/07/2012 09:14:00 PM  

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