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After the success of the engravings of 'The Book of Job', Linnell commissioned Blake to make prints of the Dante series as well. However by the time of Blake's death in 1827 only seven engravings had been made. This one illustrates a scene from Canto 5 of 'Hell'. Virgil shows Dante those 'whom love bereav'd of life', including Paolo and Francesca. The daughter of a thirteenth-century lord of Ravenna, Francesca fell in love with her husband's brother, Paolo. The betrayed husband had them both put to death. Dante, full of compassion, faints. Paolo and Francesca are also shown, truly united, above Virgil's head. Blake's original watercolour is in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham.

August 2004