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Watercolour - The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre
  • The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre
    Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827
  • Enlarge image

The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1805 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour, pen and ink

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the heirs of Esmond Morse

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case WD, shelf 61, box A

Thomas Butts (1757-1845), a civil servant, was one of William Blake's most loyal patrons. He commissioned Blake (1757-1845) to make over 80 watercolours of subjects from the Bible. This watercolour depicts the body of Jesus Christ, which was placed in a cave (his tomb or sepulchre) following his death by crucifixion. When Mary Magdalene visits, she is startled to find two angels sitting at the head and feet 'where the body of Jesus had lain'. Jesus then appears and speaks to her. For his imagery Blake sought out a description in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. When the prophet Moses is alone on Mount Sinai, God tells him to instruct the Israelites to make a 'mercy seat' flanked by cherubims (angels) all made of gold. The description of the angels in Exodus is the source for Blake's design here. This is an unusual and striking visual interpretation of the biblical text. The strange light and colours used here convey a sense of the mystery of the scene.

Physical description

Two identical angels in white robes with wings entended and pointing upwards form a triangular shape with Christ as a corpse, swathed in white robes beneath them. There is a glowing light between the heads of the two angels. Signed by the artist.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (probably, painted)


ca. 1805 (painted)


Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour, pen and ink


Height: 420 mm, Width: 314 mm

Descriptive line

Watercolour by William Blake entitled 'Christ in the sepulchre, guarded by angels'. Great Britain, 1808.

Labels and date

William Blake 1757-1827
Christ in the Sepulchre, Guarded by Angels
About 1805; signed and inscribed 'Exod : Cxxv.V.20'

Blake has combined two biblical subjects. One comes from the description of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament book of Exodus: 'the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high...and their faces shall look one to another'. The other derives from the Gospel of St John in the New Testament: 'two angels in white sitting...where the body of Jesus had lain'.

Pen and ink and watercolour on paper

Given by the heirs of Esmond Morse 1972
Museum no. P.6-1972 []


Paper; Pencil



Subjects depicted



Drawings; Paintings; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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