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Thursday, January 22, 2015

It takes one to know one

A true gem retrieved by Prof. Carter Kaplan is this wonderful portrait of the Renaissance poet made by no less than William Blake. It belongs to a lesser-known series of great personages that Blake was requested to draw at the beginning of his career. They can be admired in the Manchester City Galleries. By the irony of fate, among them there appear Homer, Dante, Chaucer, Camões, Shakespeare, Milton, etc., but also a fine rendition of the (later) "hated" Voltaire.

It is quite unlikely that the future author of Jerusalem knew something about Jerusalem Delivered, nor possibly would during his whole lifetime, but in the end, this turns out to be among the most beautiful portraits of Tasso. The two angels recall the artifact that, according to Blake, marked the origin of art, namely the Ark of Covenant. What about the despairing woman? The Muse of a persecuted poet? Or, Tasso's legendary lover Eleonora D'Este? (see)

Though based on some engraving, the portrait is free from the prejudices of Continental Criticism. The eyes, especially, are not those of a neurotic but of a very learned man, a refined poet, and a Seer.