#WilliamBlake illustrated Dante’s Divine Comedy around 1823. John Linnell (Blake’s patron and great supporter) and Samuel Palmer (a follower and student of Blake) record visiting Blake as he convalesced from a scalding accident in October of 1824. At that time Blake was 67 and while he was recuperating in bed – all around him covering the bed were the leaves of a great book which would become his designs for Dante.
Dante Alighieri wrote his epic vision between 1300 and 1321. It was a descriptive story about the Christian myths of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Blake did not hold to Dante’s orthodoxy and within his drawings we find cryptic criticism of those beliefs. Blake considered Dante’s vision of the spiritual lacking and considered the poem to be tied too closely to the natural earthly world.
In this Pergatory section we find Dante standing at the head of a Gryphon. The women in the foreground are Faith (in white), Hope (in green) and Charity (in red). On the chariot is Beatrice (Dante’s deceased lover) with two apostles appearing on either side with their animal counterparts incorporated into their image ( Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John ). Blake has created a fantastical and magical world coloured in blue, red, and yellow. Intricately drawn and mesmerising to look at, one delves for meaning in the images. A meaning which possibly only Blake truly knows.
The second image here shows the ‘chain’ lines (widely spaced and prominent – horizontal) and ‘laid’ lines (closely spaced and less defined – vertical) imprinted on the paper showing that it is considered a laid paper. There is no watermark as to the maker of the paper. The print shown is 525mm by 370mm which is very close to the original drawing size.