Bentley 2001, pp. 482-83, note 58;
Butlin 2002, p. 71.
1Essick and Paley, pp. 77 and 224-45.
This design was never engraved, nor was it mentioned in Flaxman's letter or Cromek's first prospectus. However, Essick and Paley had postulated its existence from two sketches of ascending figures that were drawn on the same sheets as known designs for The Grave1
The subject derives from Blair's description of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and specifically to the passage:
Heaven's portals wide expand to let him in;
Nor are his friends shut out: as a great prince
Not for himself alone procures admission,
But for his train; it was his royal will,
That where he is there should his followers be.
Death only lies between, a gloomy path! (p. 29)
In Blake's vocabulary, the Gothic doorway or archway often refers to heaven, and Christ's companions here are clearly the saved. The initial conception may derive from a more traditional interpretation of the Ascension, a watercolor made for Thomas Butts, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (fig. 19). Here and in the Cambridge drawing Christ spreads his arms wide as he floats up to heaven. His body is absolutely weightless, as if he were being pulled upward by an outside force. His companions in the present drawing are for the most part as immune to gravity as he is. Yet, in spite of apparent weightlessness, the figures terain a physicality greater than disembodied spirits, as is underscored by the embracing couple on the left and, in particular, the man's hand on the woman's buttock. This gesture recalls the husband and wife in Meeting of a Family in Heaven (lot 2).
Heaven's Portals shows a greater range of colors than most of the watercolors in this group, and has a pastel tonality that reinforces the unadulterated feeling of goodness and joy.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale