William Blake

The Devils, with Dante and Virgil by the Side of the Pool

1824–7

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 372 x 527 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
N03358

Display caption

This is Blake’s illustration to part of Dante’s Inferno, from the Divine Comedy. It shows the trench of corrupt politicians in the eight circle of Hell. Above are the stone bridges that Dante describes as characteristic of this part of Hell, which was reserved for the fraudulent.
The half-submerged figures on the right are people who sold public offices; they are drowning in a sea of boiling pitch. Virgil and Dante are watching on the left, escorted by a group of devils.

Gallery label, February 2004

Catalogue entry

N03358 The Devils with Dante and Virgil by the Side of the Pool 1824–7 [A00005-A00011; N03351-N03370; T01950-T01956; complete]

N 03358 / B 812 40
Pencil, pen and watercolour 372×527 (14 5/8×20 3/4)
Inscribed ‘HELL Canto 22’ in ink b.r. and, on reverse in pencil, ‘8t’ t.l. 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 (41 ix), Manchester (48 ix), Nottingham (42 xiv) and Edinburgh (63) 1913–14; Paris and Vienna 1937 (20)
LITERATURE Rosseti 1863, p.219 no.101m1, and 1880, p.230 no.123m1; Roe 1953, pp.94–5 no.40, repr.; Hagstrum 1964, pp.125–6, pl.70; Klonsky 1980, p.147, pl.42; Butlin 1981, pp.568–9 no.812 40; Gizzi 1983, p.120 repr.

This is an illustration to Inferno XXII, 1–30, a general impression of the trench of corrupt politicians in the eighth circle, that of the fraudulent. On the right sellers of public office are seen in a sea of boiling pitch. Virgil and Dante, with an escort of devils, are shown on the left. The arched forms are the stone bridges that characterise this part of Dante's Hell.

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