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The Ghost of a Flea, Tempera by William Blake (1757-1827, United Kingdom)
The Ghost of a Flea is a small tempera mixture with gold painting on mahogany type tropical hardwood panel by the English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake (1757-1827), held in the Tate Gallery, London. Completed between 1819 and 1820, it is part of a series of works depicting "Visionary Heads" commissioned by the watercolour artist and astrologist John Varley (1788-1842). Fantastic, spiritual art was extremely popular in Britain from around 1770 to 1830, and during this time Blake often worked on unearthly, supernatural panels to amuse and amaze his friends. At 21.4 cm x 16.2 cm (painting) and 38.2 mm x 32.4 mm x 5.0 mm (frame), the work is a greatly reduced miniature portrait. Blake generally worked on a small scale, most of his illuminated pages, engravings and many of his paintings are only inches high. Although Ghost of a Flea is one of Blake's smallest works, it is monumental in its imagination. In addition, its tidy scale creates a drama by contrasting the apparent muscular bulk and power of the creature against its incarnation as an insect in the panel.