Art Gallery/2

William Blake
Whirlwind of Lovers
(for Dante's Inferno) (c.1826)
Watercolour on paper, 38 x 53 cm.

From www.handprint.com: Blake’s approximately 100 completed illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy show an extraordinary degree of visual imagination and careful craftsmanship. […] The Whirlwind of Lovers […] presents the scene in Canto V of the Inferno in which Dante meets the spirit of Francesca da Rimini, who committed adultery with her brother in law, Paolo. Overcome with grief at their story of thwarted love, Dante has fainted at the feet of his underworld guide, the Roman poet Virgil, as a whirlwind of other sinful lovers writhes around them. Rather than simply illustrate the story, Blake has reinterpreted it in both subtle and obvious ways. In all the illustrations Dante is clothed in red (symbol of the passions) and Virgil in blue (symbol of the imagination), corresponding to Blake’s mythology that the imagination must guide our passions through the torment of the earth. More obviously, Blake put the spirits of Francesca and Paolo within the brilliant, heavenly light over Virgil’s head, rather than in the whirlwind with the other condemned souls: though technically sinners, he allows them the salvation of their love. This watercolor was one of only seven from the Dante series that Blake also engraved. […]

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