5188. [London: Colnaghi printing, after 5 March 1881].
Impression measures 93.9 x 30 cm., printed on laid India paper; recently cleaned.
§ Final state: it is worth noting that the only difference between the so-called fourth and fifth states is the absence of the scratched dry-point inscriptions clearly visible in a few prints, and less and less visible until completely absent by the time Sessler was printing the plate. Instead of “states” the more accurate definitions might be very early to very late 4th state, and in that scheme then this print would be well after the early impressions with some or most of the scratched inscriptions visible, but before the Sessler printings of the 1940s, none of which were on laid India. “‘Chaucers Canterbury Pilgrims’ was one of Blake’s major attempts at building a reputation as a painter-engraver and achieving the sort of critical and financial success that had escaped him for so many years.…” However, Blake wasn’t to meet with the critical success he had hoped for and the competition created when Thomas Stothard executed a plate of the same subject, caused him to become bitter. “Most contemporary connoisseurs probably found the print old-fashioned and ‘Gothic’ in the pejorative sense.… The record of prices brought by the print at auction indicates that it has attracted strong interest from collectors only in the last few years” (Essick, pp. 86-88). “It is only in the last two states of the plate that we find Blake’s mature artistry as an original printmaker, bringing to his largest and most ambitious single print the same techniques distinguishing his Job and Dante engravings.” Essick, Separate Plates of William Blake, XVI, and see William Blake, Printmaker. Item #108279