William Blake’s Illustrations For Dante’s Divine Comedy (1826)

Spellbinding drawings from William Blake's last work

“Every thing in Dantes Comedia shews That for Tyrannical Purposes he has made This World the Foundation of All & the Goddess Nature & not the Holy Ghost”
– William Blake

 

 

In 1826, William Blake accepted a commission to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy (1320). Blake created 102 drawings for the book before he died, leaving the project unfinished. They rank alongside the great artist’s illustrations of Chaucer, his oil painting, like The Ghost of a Flea, and that glorious metaphysical, satirical drawing of Sir Issac Newton sat on the sea bed conspiring to “unweave the rainbow”. There was ever a chasm between the man who claimed to have seen an angel in a tree in Peckham Rye and the great materialist who created the law of universal gravitation and sought rational explanations in the fantastic.

 

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Dante running from three beasts is rescued by Virgil

If any artist can combine words and pictures to powerful effect, it’s the visionary Blake, whose Songs of Innocence and of Experience is as true a marriage of visuals and verbs as anyone has managed. His drawings lack precision, with parts reminiscent of a child’s sugar-fuelled scribbling, but the result is mesmerising. Blake’s images are packed with verve, movement and the assertion that something strange is out there.

 

Dante and Virgil enter Hell

Dante and Virgil enter Hell

 

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

The Whirlwind of Lovers; Francesca da Rimini

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Cerberus

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

The Stygian Lake with angry sinners fighting

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Virgil repelling Filippo Argenti from the Boat

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

0, Dante conversing with Farinata Degli Uberti

he Serpent Attacking Buoso Donati

The Serpent Attacking Buoso Donati

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Scheme of the Circles of Hell

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

he Minotaur (Seventh Circle)

 

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

The Wood of Self-Violators: The Harpies and the Suicides

Capaneus the Blasphemer

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

The Simoniac Pope

Thieves

The Punishment of the Thieves

 

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Centaur Cacus Threatens Vanni Fucci

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Ulysses & Diomedes wrapped in the same flame

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Antaeus sets down Dante and Virgil in the 9th circle

 

Count Ugolino and his sons in prison

William Blake illustrations drawings for Dante Divine Comedy

Lucifer at the last section of the ninth circle

Beatrice Addressing Dante

Beatrice Addressing Dante

 St Peter and St James with Dante and Beatrice

 

Lead image: Dante running from three beasts is rescued by Virgil