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John Flaxman, 1755–1826, British

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

between 1783 and 1787
Gray ink with graphite and gray wash on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 16 x 21 7/8 inches (40.6 x 55.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
cape | curtains
Associated People:
Jesus Christ (7-2 BC/BCE to 30-36 AD/CE)
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Like Michael Rysbrack (see cats. 30 and 152) [B1992.19.2 and B1977.14.5719], John Flaxman was a sculptor who was also a celebrated draftsman. Indeed, Flaxman's spare, and unrelentingly linear drawings are the quintessential statements of neoclassical draftsmanship. They take the process of neoclassical simplification of forms, seen in its early stages in Gavin Hamilton's illustrations to the Iliad (cats. 31-2) [B1975.4.884 and B1975.4.885], to a new level of severity and abstraction. Both of these drawings [B1977.14.6168 and B1981.25.2586] demonstrate the exchange of visual ideas between Flaxman and his friend William Blake (see cats. 36-7) [B1992.8.11(9) and B1992.8.11(23)] as well as their creative responses to earlier art. In Get Thee Behind Me, Satan the commanding figure of Christ is taken from Raphael's cartoon Christ's Charge to St. Peter. Blake made use of the same figure in his Christ appearing the Apostles after the Resurrection, one of his large color prints of the mid-1790s. Flaxman's fleeing Satan appears, rotated one hundred and eighty degrees, as the evil angel in The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child, another of Blake's large color prints. And the floating angels to the right of Christ in Flaxman's drawing, which also have their counterparts in Blake's art of the period, testify to a shared interest in the linear expressiveness of Gothic art. The Creation of the Heavens may have been inspired by Micelangelo's Sistine-ceiling image of God creating the heavens; but, in its expression of cosmic energy through a radical simplification of the human form, it is even more Blakean.

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