Dante Alighieri and Virgil Enter the Wood William Blake Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Dante Alighieri and Virgil Enter the Wood was a drawing partially painted with watercolours done by William Blake in 1824. Blake is said to have been commissioned to draw the image and 101 others by his painter friend John Linnell.

The 102 compositions were a visual story based on a poem book called The Divine Comedy. These are the last known drawings by William Blake as he died in 1827 before completing the painting of all the images. John Linnell took the drawings after the death of his friend. Years after his death, his estate decided to sell the entire collection to the British National Art Collections Fund. Currently, the images are on display at London's Tate Gallery.

Background Information about the Drawing

The Divine Comedy was a poem created by Dante Alighieri in the early 14th Century. Dante was a staunch Roman Catholic follower. He made a poem to show a man's walk through the world to hell and purgatory as he journeys to paradise. He included a fellow poet called Virgil to aid him through the treacherous journey. Dante Alighieri and Virgil Enter the Wood happens at the start of the poem.

In the drawing, two men, one wearing a white robe and another one in blue, enter a dense forest. The canopy of the tree covers their heads, meaning that they are moving in pitch darkness. According to the poem, these two men are Dante and Virgil. Dante is the one that is taking the journey through the forest while his friend Virgil helps him through. They are embroiled in a conversation, as evidenced by one of them who is raising his hands.

According to the poem, the forest is the world of sin. Dante joins the world of sin and is soon carried away by the pleasures of the world. However, Virgil joins him to help him through the journey as he seeks to find paradise. Dante requires some help to find his way around as he walks in the pitch darkness. This darkness caused by the canopy prevents the goodness of the deity from reaching them in the forest.

The Style of the Artwork

This watercolour painting emphasizes nature, which takes up much of the image. It is in line with Romanticism, where artists use nature and their imagination to tell their stories. There is a bit of realism in the image, which gives it features that the viewer will relate to. Although Blake did not paint the entire scene, it is a powerful accompaniment for the 14th century story.