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John Varley – an artist, astrologer and close friend of Blake – reported in his 'Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy' (1882) that Blake was once visited by the ghost of a flea and that ‘This spirit visited his imagination in such a figure as he never anticipated in an insect.’ While drawing the spirit it told the artist that all fleas were inhabited by the souls of men who were ‘by nature bloodthirsty to excess’.
Tempera heightened with gold on mahogany
H 21.4 x W 16.2 cm
Bequeathed by W. Graham Robertson 1949