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The Ghost of a Flea

Photo credit: Tate

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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’.

Tate Britain

London


Date

c.1819–20

Medium

Tempera heightened with gold on mahogany

Measurements

H 21.4 x W 16.2 cm

Accession number

N05889

Acquisition method

Bequeathed by W. Graham Robertson 1949

Work type

Painting


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Tate Britain

Millbank, London, Greater London SW1P 4RG England

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