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The Great Red Dragon Paintings

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Title: The Great Red Dragon Paintings  
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Subject: William Blake, Red dragon, Manhunter (film), Francis Dolarhyde, Red Dragon (novel), William Blake in popular culture
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The Great Red Dragon Paintings

The Great Red Dragon Paintings are a series of watercolour paintings by the English poet and painter William Blake, painted between 1805 and 1810.[1] It was during this period that Blake was commissioned to create over a hundred paintings intended to illustrate books of the Bible. These paintings depict 'The Great Red Dragon' in various scenes from the Book of Revelation.

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.
— (Rev. 12:3-4, KJV)

The Paintings

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun

In this painting, the Dragon is seen ready to devour the child of the pregnant woman as depicted in Revelation 12. Height: 54.6 cm, Width: 43.2 cm[2]

Housed at the Brooklyn Museum.

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun

This image is similar to The Great Red Dragon and the Woman clothed in Sun but shown from a different viewpoint. Height: 40.8, Width: 33.7 cm[3]

Housed at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C..

The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea

Height: 40.1 cm, Width: 35.6 cm[4]

Housed at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C..

The Number of the Beast is 666

Height: 40.6 cm, Width: 33.0 cm[5]

Housed at: the Rosenbach Museum & Library

Popular culture

  • The character of the Great Red Dragon plays a prominent role in Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon and its film adaptations, Manhunter and Red Dragon, in which the primary antagonist Francis Dolarhyde has an obsession with the painting. Dolarhyde is fixated with the strength and power he thinks the dragon exudes, so he takes up bodybuilding and, by the events of the novel, he is described as being able to dead lift, then shoulder press, 300 lbs, meaning he is physically very powerful, and in his mind, like the dragon. He also has a giant tattoo of the dragon etched onto his back. Thomas Harris makes an error in citing "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun" as the object of Dolarhyde's fixation while describing "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun", specifically the Dragon's tail wrapping around the woman, a detail specifically accurate of the "in" painting. As well, Harris refers to the "with" painting as having been loaned by the Brooklyn Museum for a Blake retrospective at the Tate[6]—the "in" painting is the version held by the Brooklyn Museum. Note, however, that the Brooklyn Museum's own website shows the "in" painting, but labels it "with",[7] so perhaps the error is the Museum's and not Harris'. Manhunter shows the "with" painting as named in Harris's book, and has the front-facing Dragon from that painting tattooed on Dolarhyde's chest, whereas Red Dragon uses "in" as described by Harris along with the back and leg tattoos.
  • A mural-sized reproduction of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun appears painted on a wall in "Sight Unseen," an episode of The Flash. The television series' art direction is noted for regularly featuring elaborate, theme-specific murals.
  • All of the paintings in the series were used for the artwork of the Legend CD trilogy (1997–2007) by the band Saviour Machine.
  • In Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1983) a picture in the Book of the Dead is based upon William Blake's The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun.
  • In the 3rd book of Henry H. Neff's The Tapestry series, Prusias is often associated by Max with this phrase, and when Prusias is angry, his shadow turns into a dragon. At the end of the book, it is shown Prusias' true form is a dragon. Additionally, he has a huge number of heads as well, hinting he is the dragon from the bible.
  • Aizen's Hollow Form from Bleach resembles the Great Red Dragon as painted by William Blake.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's,the cards Red Dragon Archfiend and Stardust Dragon are both based on the Great Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun respectively.
  • The Mentalist, in which the works of William Blake are recurring theme, has an episode named after this painting. As the episode has yet to air, it is not yet clear in which way the title will play in, but it is likely an allusion to the serial killer "Red John", first in-series reciter of one of Blake's poems.
  • Sleepy Hollow In Season 1 Episode 4 "The Lesser Key of Solomon" When Ichabod Crane is showing Lt. Grace Abigail "Abbie" Mills the picture of the creature that she saw in the woods it is an image of "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun"


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