Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Baptism of Christ
Original in Asmolean Museum, Oxford
Luke 3
[2] Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
[3] And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
[4] As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
[5] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
[6] And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
[7] Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
[8] Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
[15] And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
[16] John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
[21] Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
[22] And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
[23] And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph,
Luke 4
[1] And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
[2] Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

We can make a comparison of three image of the baptism of Jesus by Blake. The first, a tempera in the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum can be viewed in the Blake Archive. It includes the most detail. (Click on picture for enlargement and scan to observe detail.) Notable is the Divine family in the heavenly realm. The bearded old man through which Blake represented Urizen, Job and Jehovah kneels in the water to the left of John. This picture includes others besides Jesus availing themselves of John's baptism. In each of the pictures we see that 'the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him.'

The watercolor picture in the Ashmolean at Oxford is available through the website named William Blake: The Complete Works

The watercolor picture illustating Milton's Paradise Regained is available through Wikimedia Commons. The original is in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. The image was used in our post Illustrating Milton

Blake descriptions of his illustration of the Last Judgment include some of what we see in these three pictures.
Letters, To Ozias Humphry, 1808, (E 553)
 "On the Right hand of the Throne of Christ is Baptism On
the left is the Lords Supper the two introducers
into Eternal Life Women with Infants approach the Figure of an
aged Apostle which represents
Baptism & on the left hand the Lords Supper is administerd by
Angels from the hands of another Apostle these
kneel on each side of the Throne which is surrounded by a Glory
many Infants appear in the Glory
representing the Eternal Creation flowing from the Divine
Humanity in Jesus who opens the Scroll of Judgment upon his knees
before the Living & the Dead
     Such is the Design which you my Dear Sir have been the cause
of my producing & which but for you might have slept till the
Last Judgment"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 562)
" On the Side next Baptism are seen those calld in the Bible
Nursing Fathers & Nursing Mothers <they have Crowns the
Spectator may suppose them to be the good Kings  & Queens
of England> they represent Education   On the Side
next the Lords Supper.  The Holy Family consisting of Mary Joseph
John the Baptist Zacharias & Elizabeth recieving the Bread & Wine
among other Spirits of  Just  
made perfect. 

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