William Blake
The Serpent Attacking Buoso Donati 1826–7, reprinted 1892

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
The Serpent Attacking Buoso Donati
Date 1826–7, reprinted 1892
Medium Line engraving on paper
Dimensions Image: 241 x 335 mm
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
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Display caption

This print illustrates lines from Canto 25 of Dante’s Inferno.  It shows a thief named Cavalcanti in the guise of a serpent ‘all on fire’. He is preparing to attack another thief, Buoso de’ Donati. The serpent and Donati eye each other while ‘One from the wound, the other from the mouth Breath’d a thick smoke, whose vap'ry columns join’d’.

In the next scene, which Blake also illustrated, Donati is transformed into a serpent and Cavalcanti into a man. Their punishment is to suffer this transformation from man to snake and back again for eternity.

August 2004

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