William Blake
The Ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory 1824–7

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
The Ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory
Date 1824–7
Medium Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 528 x 372 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
Not on display

Display caption

In the 1820s Blake illustrated The Divine Comedy by the medieval poet Dante Alighieri. In this poem the pilgrim Dante, with Virgil (in blue), pass through hell and then climbs the Mount of Purgatory towards the Earthly Paradise on its summit.

The mountain was created when Satan fell from heaven into the earth’s centre. It rises at the opposite pole to the city of Jerusalem. Blake’s vision, in Jerusalem, of England in a fallen state has a parallel in Dante’s vision. Even seeing ‘clouds unfold’ is an optimistic sign of ultimate recovery from the fall.

December 2004

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