William Blake
Ciampolo the Barrator Tormented by the Devils 1826–7, reprinted 1892

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
Ciampolo the Barrator Tormented by the Devils
Date 1826–7, reprinted 1892
Medium Line engraving on paper
Dimensions Image: 240 x 338 mm
Acquisition Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the the Art Fund 1919
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Display caption

A ‘barrator’ sells political power or favour for money. Dante describes Ciampolo being punished for this sin by devils called the ‘Malebanche’ (Evil Claws). Blake, however, gives the devils the faces of respectable gentlemen, using elegant sticks and hooks to tear at Ciampolo. Their humanisation and sophistication may add a sinister edge to their unpleasantness, suggesting the hidden side of ostensibly upright members of society.

March 2011

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