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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(8):765. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.107.
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The Revelation to John1 is the last book of the Christian New Testament. Its record of his prophetic visions of the “end-time” is the source for many works of art. Among the best known of these are the 15 woodcuts of the Apocalypse and 4 engravings of the Virgin with Child standing on the crescent moon by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).2(p61) So symbolically meaningful was Dürer's art to Neil Armstrong that, soon after placing the US flag on the moon, with his gloved hand the astronaut inscribed Dürer’s initials in moon dust.2 Still better known are The Last Judgment by Michelangelo (1475-1564), on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, in which Christ, as judge, condemns sinners to eternal fire and lifts the elect to join the angels and saints in heaven, and the ceiling fresco of the triumphant woman clothed in the sun standing on Galileo's maculate moon by Lodovico Cardi (1559-1613)3 at Santa Maria Maggiore church in Rome. However, the most provocative and disturbing images are the watercolor paintings of the Great Red Dragon by William Blake (1757-1827).4

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William Blake (1757-1827), British. The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun, circa 1803-1805. Black ink and watercolor over traces of graphite and incised lines, 43.7 × 34.8 cm (173/16 × 1311/16 in). Brooklyn Museum, New York (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/calendar/event/4239). Gift of William Augustus White /The Bridgeman Art Library.

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