by James Deville
plaster cast of head, published 1823
11 1/2 in. (292 mm) high
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- William Blake (1757-1827), Visionary poet and painter. Sitter in 10 portraits, Artist associated with 5 portraits.
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Deville was a sculptor and phrenologist employed as a young assistant by Joseph Nollekens from whom no doubt he learned the technique of taking life-masks with the help of straws to prevent suffocation. The mask was taken when Blake was aged fifty-six so that the phrenologist could have a cast of Blake's head 'as representative of the imaginative faculty'. It failed however to please his family and friends; George Richmond said that the unnatural severity of the mouth was caused by the discomforture of the process 'as the plaster pulled out a quantity of his hair'.