Throughout the History of Art there are characters who are unique artists, not only because of their talent or their technique, but because they are different creators, different from anything else that existed at the time. It is not that they are revolutionary, in the sense that they are ahead of their time, or that they create a school by being the maximum exponent of a style, but simply that they are different. Some examples of this may be the pictorial production of Bosco in the Netherlands at the end of the Middle Ages, or the curious faces painted by Arcimboldo in full Renaissance.
The Archangel Michael Binding Satan by William Blake
Well, a similar case could be the British artist William Blake (1757 – 1827), an artist steeped in Romanticism, but who completely transformed it into something different, both in his paintings and in his illustrations, and also in his writings. And a good example of this could be this work from around the year 1800 that represents the Archangel Michael chaining Satan, a painting that is currently preserved as part of the collection of theFogg Museum, Cambridge.
This is a work that can be framed within his facet as an illustrator of literary works, since in this case it is an image inspired by a passage from the tragic poem of Paradise Lostwritten between 1655 and 1660 bythe English writer John Milton, certainly a highly admired work at the time, and which was also illustrated by another of the greatest cartoonists of the 19th century, the Frenchman Gustave Doré.
But as we said at the beginning, the illustrations of William Blake are different from any other. And in this case we are facing a watercolor linked to the following verses:
“He threw him into the bottomless abyss and reduced him to silence”
To do this, the painter presents us with the archangel wearing a very heavy iron chain, with which he immobilizes (chains) the monster, thanks to a fight that he wins with an incredible torsion of his body. A body of prodigious musculature. Without a doubt, as soon as this figure is seen, anyone can think of the male bodies that he painted or sculptedMichelangelo
But Blake goes one step further, transforming a biblical scene into something of a fantastic setting. An absolutely unreal scene, to begin with because it seems that the fight between the two characters is suspended in time and space. Actually, Blake does not mind giving the scene any credibility, what he wants is to achieve an aesthetic that was called the sublime, and that is characterized by its visionary intensity and the prophetic tone of its scenes.