Our next puzzle concerns a painting showing a great battle between good and evil. Its solution can be found below the image.
Darkness and ominous flashes fill the sky, while a dragon’s wings unleash a storm. Wind rakes through the flaming hair of a woman sitting on a moon crescent. A satanic deluge, sweeping away masses of unlucky souls, swells under her feet.
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun – that is the title of this dramatic watercolour painted by William Blake, the English poet and visionary, showing the cosmic battle between good and evil.
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” (KJV, Ap 12, 1–4)
The Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, contains numerous warnings for Christians to protect their faith. It also presents a series of allegorical episodes demonstrating the consequences of defiance. Blake’s watercolour illustrates the part where a great red dragon with seven heads, 10 horns and seven crowns appears opposite a woman clothed with sunlight, a moon under her feet and a crown consisting of 12 stars on her head. The woman is to give birth to God’s follower, the proponent of the Christian faith. And the dragon embodies Satan.
While painting this scene, Blake allowed himself – through showing the symmetry of the spread arms of the main protagonists – to suggest that good and evil are intertwined and equally fundamental for human existence. “Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy,” he used to say.
William Blake was born at the beginning of the industrial revolution, in a modest house at 28 Broad Street in Soho. He spent all of his life in London. He was four years old when he saw the head of God in his window – it was the first of the many visions he experienced. He was a poet, a painter and the creator of etchings and engravings; a visionary artist. Unrecognized in his lifetime, he never became an important figure in the artistic life of the British capital; he saw his drawings mainly as sources of income. Today, he is considered one of the most important figures in the art and literature of the Romantic period.
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun is one of the four watercolours created by Blake inspired by the Apocalypse of John in the years 1805–1810. They are part of a larger group of distemper and watercolour images painted for the artist’s most important patron, Thomas Butts.]
Translated from the Polish by Anna Błasiak
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