William Blake

The Laborious Passage along the Rocks

1824–7

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

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Medium
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 373 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
N03360

Display caption

This is an illustration to the part of Dante's Divine Comedy dealing with the Inferno: Hell. The poet Virgil, seen standing just to the left of centre, is guiding Dante through Hell, which consists of successive circles, each containing different categories of sinners. Here Virgil is helping Dante climb up the massive boulders separating the pit of hypocrites from the pit of thieves.

Gallery label, February 2004

Catalogue entry

N03360 The Laborious Passage along the Rocks 1824–7 [A00005-A00011; N03351-N03370; T01950-T01956; complete]

N 03360 / B 812 46
Pencil, pen and watercolour 373×527 (14 11/16×20 3/4)
Inscribed ‘HELL Canto 24’ in ink b.c. and ‘Canto 24 V 30 [?]’ in pencil b.r. and, on reverse in pencil, ‘N40 next at p 75’ t.c., ‘Hell Canto 24 v 60’ b.l. and ‘69’ t.l., all turned through a right-angle
Watermarked ‘WELGAR 1796’ 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 Hamburg and Frankfurt 1975 (210, repr.)
LITERATURE Rossetti 1863, p.219 no.101r1 ors1, and 1880, p.230 no.123r1 or s1; Roc 1953, pp.100–1 no.46, repr.; Klonsky 1980, p.148, colour pl.48; Butlin 1981, p.570 no.812 46; Gizzi 1983, p.126 repr.

This is an illustration to Inferno XXIV, 19–36: Virgil, having led Dante past a shattered bridge, helps Dante up the series of massive boulders that separate the pit of the hypocrites from the seventh pit in the eighth circle, that devoted to the thieves. There is a second, upright treatment of this subject in the British Museum (Butlin 1981, no.812 45, repr. Roe 1953, pl.45, Klonsky 1980, pl.47 and Gizzi 1983, p.125). This may illustrate the slightly later passage, lines 37–63, where the cliff becomes still steeper.


Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990