Catalogue entry

N03367 Dante and Virgil Approaching the Angel who Guards the Entrance of Purgatory 1824–7

N 03367 / B 812 78
Pencil, pen and watercolour 527×373 (20 3/4×14 11/16)

Inscribed ‘P-g-Canto 9’ in ink b.l. and 'Pg Canto 9 v [?]... [?] 'b.r., and, on reverse in pencil, ‘Pg Canto 9’ b.r. and ‘35’ t.r. turned through a right-angle
Watermarked ‘WE’
Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the National Art-Collections Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the National Art-Collections Fund 1919
PROVENANCE As for N03351
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1947 (65)
LITERATURE Rossetti 1863, p.221 no.102i, and 1880, p.233 no.124i; Roe 1953, pp.148–50 no.78, repr.; Paley 1978, p.73; Klonsky 1980, pp.17, 155–6, colour pl.81; Butlin 1981, pp.580–1 no.812 78; Gizzi 1983, p.159 repr; Warner 1984, p.120; Fuller in Art History 1988, p.372 n.17

This is an illustration to Purgatorio IX, 73–105. Still ascending the Mountain of Purgatory, Dante and Virgil approach the angel who guards the gate to Purgatory itself; the three steps, in white polished marble, a dark rough stone and a flaming porphyry, represent sincerity, contrition and love.

Roe suggests that the resemblance of the angel to Urizen, who represents for Blake the materialism of pure reason, and the increased clouding over of the sun reflect Blake's disapproval of Dante's conception of Purgatory and Paradise. Fuller, however, disputes the identification with Urizen, citing this as a typical example of Roe's overinterpretation and pointing out that the symbolic use of the veiled sun derives from Dante's own imagery.

Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990