### Course: Europe 1800 - 1900 > Unit 2

Lesson 4: England (Blake and Fuseli)# Blake, The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

Met curator Constance McPhee on outsiders in William Blake’s *The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, *c. 1799–1800.

Blake painted four versions of this subject for his patron Thomas Butts and this lucid watercolor is the earliest. The wise virgins at left are elegant, palely luminous, and composed within a single plane, recalling classical low-relief sculpture. In contrast, their foolish companions at right are agitated and characterized by dark tones. The drawing illustrates a parable in Matthew 25:1-13 used by Jesus to warn listeners to be spiritually prepared:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. A trumpeting angel flying overhead signifies that the moment of judgment has arrived.

View this work on the metmuseum.org.

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- I like the question at the end. Are you prepared? I think its very accurate the interpretation but I wonder if it is a personal interpretation or he left writings or told this to someone?(6 votes)
- Just to give a little context, Matthew 25 is when Jesus gives three parables, or a story that teaches a spiritual lesson. The first parable is this one, the ten virgins preparing to meet the bridegroom, but 5 don't have enough oil and cannot meet him. The 2nd parable are 3 servants who choose to develop (or not develop) the money left from their lord, and receive according to their work. The 3rd is the 2nd coming of God to the earth and those who have taken care of the poor, and those who have not and cannot enter God's kingdom. These stories are a continuation of Matthew 24, when Jesus's disciples asked him about what will happen at the second coming, and Jesus in part answers with these parables. So in other words, the context of the stories help with the interpretation of the painting and the question, "are you prepared?" Hope this helps to answer your question.(8 votes)

- Ms. McPhee, I loved the lesson on Blake's watercolor, but was a bit taken aback at your comment "...he BELIEVED he saw angels" (emphasis mine).

Are you to have us infer that you do NOT believe he saw angels? I neither believe nor disbelieve, but with a genius as much a polymath as Blake, who's to say he didn't?(3 votes) - It's possibly a stunning representation of the Law of Duality?(2 votes)
- In mathematics, a duality, generally speaking, translates concepts, theorems or mathematical structures into other concepts, theorems or structures, in a one-to-one fashion, often (but not always) by means of an involution operation: if the dual of A is B, then the dual of B is A. Such involutions sometimes have fixed points, so that the dual of A is A itself. For example, Desargues' theorem is self-dual in this sense under the standard duality in projective geometry.

In mathematical contexts, duality has numerous meanings[1] although it is "a very pervasive and important concept in (modern) mathematics"[2] and "an important general theme that has manifestations in almost every area of mathematics".[3]

Many mathematical dualities between objects of two types correspond to pairings, bilinear functions from an object of one type and another object of the second type to some family of scalars. For instance, linear algebra duality corresponds in this way to bilinear maps from pairs of vector spaces to scalars, the duality between distributions and the associated test functions corresponds to the pairing in which one integrates a distribution against a test function, and Poincaré duality corresponds similarly to intersection number, viewed as a pairing between submanifolds of a given manifold.[4]

From a category theory viewpoint, duality can also be seen as a functor, at least in the realm of vector spaces. There it is allowed to assign to each space its dual space and the pullback construction allows to assign for each arrow(2 votes)