In 1824 Blake began work on a commission to illustrate the Divine Comedy, by the fourteenth-century poet, Dante. In this poem, Dante is guided by the classical poet Virgil through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory, and then Paradise.
Most of Blake’s illustrations are for the first part, Inferno, showing sinners being punished. Here, Dante and Virgil (right) watch the hypocrites, wearing lead-lined cloaks, filing past the high priest Caiaphas, who is nailed to a cross on the ground. Caiaphas was the priest who said that Christ should die. Each hypocrite steps on Caiaphas as he passes.