William Blake's colour print painting filled with watercolors and ink is known as Pity, it is one of a large group of paintings known as "Large Colour Prints". In Pity, a woman lying on the ground appears to be deceased, while two figures riding horses fly above her with a young baby in hand. This painting was completed in 1795, but the painting relates more to the characteristics of renaissance style drawing. Sense the woman figure lying down does not appear in Macbeth’s simile on Pity, the woman figure lying down creates difficulties for commentators who draw conclusions on Shakespeare’s text in their interpretations of Blake's painting. By exploring the influences of Blake’s own visual and verbal imagination of which he acquires from Macbeth’s lines, we find the sources of the confusion that reveal the true meaning of Pity. The majority of the confusion originates from the woman lying down, which will become clearer when we look into the Pity concept in Blake’s poetry and examine his other works from the 1795 series. These sources can bring new thoughts and reveal new concepts when viewing the painting. The presence of the dead woman along with the live infant allows Blake to create ambiguity between life and death as a simile to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
The sense of uncertainty appears in Blake's painting because at first glance it is not obvious what the painting is portraying along with the characteristics and body language of each figure. This painting is originating from Blake's imagination and visions. It is not known if the vision was stimulated by Blake reading Shakespeare’s play Act I, Scene 7 of Macbeth:
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, (19-23)
Since the baby, horse and angel figures are present in the scene, it is a great possibility that Blake used Shakespeare in relation to Pity. The only figure present in the painting that is not in Macbeth is the deceased female figure lying down.
The women figure lying on the ground looks as if she is dead. She lies there gazing up into nowhere with a solid glare. Instead of the angel figure giving life to the figure lying down; it seems as if the angel figure is taking the life of a baby from her, as she is now dead and the angels are taking care of the baby. The angel figure from the horse reaches her arms out to grasp the baby. All of the figures have the same hair color, blonde with slight curls. Along with the curls we notice that the front angel figure's hair is being blown straight up; this will later be explained.
There are four figures and two horses in this painting. Each of the horses are centered and facing horizontally with very...