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"Nebuchadnezzar", Oil by William Blake (1757-1827, United Kingdom)
Nebuchadnezzar is a colour monotype print with additions in ink and watercolour portraying the Old Testament Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II by the English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake. Taken from the Book of Daniel, the legend of Nebuchadnezzar tells of a ruler who through hubris lost his mind and was reduced to animalistic madness and eating "grass as oxen". According to the biographer Alexander Gilchrist (1828–1861), in Blake's print the viewer is faced with the "mad king crawling like a hunted beast into a den among the rocks; his tangled golden beard sweeping the ground, his nails like vultures' talons, and his wild eyes full of sullen terror. The powerful frame is losing semblance of humanity, and is bestial in its rough growth of hair, reptile in the toad-like markings and spottings of the skin, which takes on unnatural hues of green, blue, and russet." Nebuchadnezzar was part of the so-called Large Colour Prints; a series begun in 1795 of twelve 43 cm x 53 cm colour monotype prints, of most of which three copies were made. These were painted on millboard, after which the board was put through Blake's printing-press with a sheet of dampened paper to make the prints. After they were printed, Blake and his wife Catherine added ink and watercolour to the impressions. It existed in four impressions (copies), now in: Tate Britain in London, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and a fourth which has been missing since 1887. Blake believed that Nebuchadnezzar was connected to the Christian apocalypse and to his personal view on the stages of human development.