GREATEST BLAKE DISCOVERY IN 100 YEARS LOST WATERCOLORS TO BE SOLD BY SOTHEBY’S IN NEW YORK MOST IMPORTANT OFFERING OF WORKS BY THE ARTIST EVER TO APPEAR AT AUCTION ESTIMATED TO BRING $12/17.5 MILLION ON MAY 2, 2006
be chosen and engraved to illustrate a deluxe edition of the poem. Blake’s twenty finished watercolors were a great success and lauded by the artist’s contemporaries, but Cromek hired a more conventional engraver for the task, possibly after seeing Blake’s experimental engraving of Death’s Door. The finished work came out in 1808 and
contained twelve engravings by Louis Schiavonetti, which were based on Blake’s watercolors. Even though Blake lost out on the commission to engrave his own designs, the book was a great success and his most famous work during the 19th century. (Pictured above: Death of the Strong Wicked Man, est. $1/1.5 million)
Cromek kept the watercolors and used them in his efforts to obtain subscribers for the book. Upon his death, the watercolors passed to his widow and next appeared at auction in Edinburgh on February 17, 1836, where they are sold for a pittance -- £1.25. Following that auction, the drawings disappeared completely until two Yorkshire book dealers stumbled upon them in a Glasgow bookshop in the summer of 2001. Following their authentication, a dispute over their ownership was resolved out of court and the watercolors were sold to a European based private collector for an undisclosed sum.
(Inscribed Title Page Design for “The Grave”, est. $180/260,000)
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