William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon

BY D.C. FENLON

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun by William Blake
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun by William Blake

The great red dragon paintings are a series of watercolours by the English poet and painter William Blake, painted between 1805 and 1810. It was during this period that Blake was commissioned to create over a hundred paintings intended to illustrate the Bible. These paintings depict ‘The Great Red Dragon’ (Satan) in various scenes from the book of revelation:

‘And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to earth.’

(Rev. 12:3-4, KJV)

William Blake was a visionary, even hallucinatory English painter and poet. He lived in the dawn of the technological era. Unlike many other artists of his era he did not draw from life, claiming that the visions that appeared before him were clearer and more vivid than his perception of external reality.

A cosmic battle between good and evil unfolds in this dramatic watercolour by the romantic poet and visionary artist. Sweeping lines cross the drawing and evoke the zigzag flash of lightning, whoosh of a gale, and flap of wings, imbuing the scene with tension. The stakes are no less than the fate of humankind.

The book of revelation, the final book of the New Testament, contains a series of warnings to Christians to maintain and guard their faith.  These warnings demonstrate the consequences of leaving the faith. Blake’s ‘The Great Red Dragon and Woman Clothed in the Sun’ illustrates passages that describe an enormous red dragon who descends upon a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. The dragon embodies Satan. His mission is to exact revenge on the woman clothed with the sun because she has given birth to a follower of God who will spread the Christian faith.

 

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