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Job's Comforters is one of a series of artworks by William Blake which became known collectively as his illustrations to the Book of Job. The engravings were released in several series of prints.
The Book of Job is a Hebrew Bible which tells a number of stories from the life of this individual. He would have his commitment to God questioned, with some believing that his materialistic nature had become a distraction and that he need to be tested once more. William Blake would certainly have appreciated this narrative, being a man himself who wanted society to return to its purest of roots. Job would undergo a torturous time, leading his wife to curse out of sadness and desperation. Suffering would be a common theme within religious scripture as a means to reminding us of what is ultimately important in life and to help us to avoid taking the wrong path of behaviour. The artist was originally commissioned to produce twenty of these different designs as engravings which could produce prints from them, but eventually this was extended to an additional design.
Job would appear within Blake's work some decades earlier and initially this series was produced as watercolours before the artist returned to them and created new versions of them in the form of engravings. The patrons hoped that the option of repeated print runs could enable to make some considerable profits from this series, and on this occasion they were proven correct. Ultimately Blake was given money up front for the twenty one engravings, with further bonuses being accrued once a successful profit had been achieved by the patrons. Not many of this artist's works were actually profitable, and so it made sense for those commissioning the work to structure the artist's payments in this way. The prints would have been sold at nominal prices, but with the option to create more series fairly easily, this was an attractive option to investors.
This print was purchased by the Tate in 1919, as part of a large acquisition of the artist's work. They store most of it within a particular department which can only be viewed upon appointment, but here you will also find a number of important drawings and prints from the careers of many other famous British artists as well, including the equally gifted, William Hogarth. The artist would experiment with items such as Job's Comforters in terms of the final prints, altering the detail around their borders to give different impacts. It was never just a case of completed the engraving and handing it over for print production without any further involvement. The Job series also includes a number of other characters, besides his family, including Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.