William Blake Homer and the Ancient Poets 1824–7

Artwork details

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Title
Homer and the Ancient Poets
Date 1824–7
Medium Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 371 x 528 mm
Collection
Tate
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
Reference
N03353

Display caption

This is one of Blake's illustrations to The Divine Comedy by the medieval poet Dante. Blake used a new English translation of the poem which was seen as a major contribution to our national literature. Blake's ambitious response to the text was also informed by nationalism. Dante describes an imagined pilgrimage, guided by the poet Virgil, through Hell and Purgatory to Paradise. Here Dante and Virgil look down into Limbo, where they see Homer, holding a sword, and other poets. Homer celebrated the Trojan war; Blake, opposed to war, described the Greek and Roman poets as 'slaves of the sword'.

October 2001

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