Dante and Virgil have arrived at the circle of Hell inhabited by ‘falsifiers’ such as forgers. They are tormented by numerous diseases.
Blake used a red lake, probably brazilwood, and a gritty vermilion red to show the flames of Hell. These pigments have very different working properties, and are not easy to use in thin washes in gum medium. He preferred to use vermilion whenever a blood red or a living flesh tone was required. Here he has used it for parts of the diseased bodies of the two falsifiers at the right, which are raw with scratching.