The Technique

The Dante written poem was divided into three parts of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The painting is derived from the section of the poem that deals with purgatory. Uncharacteristic of pictures in this series, Blake uses vibrant colours in this painting. He uses different shades of blue, scarlet red, pink-red, and a darker shade of red and yellow to depict various scenes of the poem. In the artwork, Virgil and Dante stand before the guard of heaven. The guard is illustrated by Cato the Younger, who was a Roman philosopher and respected politician.

The two men have their heads bowed in reverence. Dante in a red robe is closest to the viewer, while Virgil, in a blue robe, is next to him. They stand in front of the Angel at the doorway. The Angel sits guarding in front of an arched doorway, looking at them. The entrance that the Angel sits in front of is white, illustration light, and there is a hint of blue sky above the doorway to show purgatory beyond him.

Blake used colour richly in this painting, with the sky in the background a burst of reddish hues on the clouds. Behind the clouds, the sun shines through and reflects on the water body. The water body reflects the sun with vibrant yellow hues, taper off into dark coloured water to the left side of the painting. The dark areas do not get the sunlight. Blake uses colour to depict shadows and create depth and texture in the picture. The artwork is one of the finished paintings done by Blake under the John Linnell commissioned work. Out of the 100 paintings that he did, Dante and Virgil Approaching the Angel Who Guards the Entrance of Purgatory is coloured, has pencil strokes around behind the Angel, and uses graphite in the foreground. It is one of the complete paintings in the series.


Dante and Virgil Approaching the Angel Who Guards the Entrance of Purgatory was inspired by Divine Comedy, the Dante Alighieri literary work. The poem divided into three parts was illustrated by Blake for three years, until his death in August 1827.


The painting is displayed in the Tate Gallery in London. The painting’s hues have been preserved by the gum Blake used to make the finished work look glossy.