3 of 10 portraits of William Blake
by James Deville
plaster cast of head, published 1823
11 1/2 in. (292 mm) high
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Sitterback to top
- William Blake (1757-1827), Visionary poet and painter. Sitter in 10 portraits, Artist associated with 5 portraits.
This portraitback to top
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'.
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Events of 1823back to top
Current affairsGaols Act is passed to build new prisons, raise standards in old ones and institute regular inspections. It is prompted by the vigorous campaigning of reformers such as Elizabeth Fry, leader of the Ladies Association for the Improvement of Female Prisoners in Newgate Prison.
Anti-Slavery Committee is founded in London.
Art and scienceArchitect, Robert Smirke begins construction of the British Museum.
Thomas Wakley founds The Lancet, the first weekly medical journal and important mouthpiece of medical reform.
Charles Babbage begins work on the first calculating machine.
Charles Macintosh invents waterproof fabric.
InternationalCatholic Association is founded by Daniel O'Connell in Ireland in an attempt to mobilise and politicise the entire Irish Catholic population in a systematic challenge to the ruling Protestant ascendancy.
War breaks out between France and Spain.
English missionary John Smith died in prison having been sentenced to be hanged for failing to take up arms against slaves in Demerara.