The Inscription over the Gate 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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This memorable artwork from William Blake was a part of his Divine Comedy series, and this particular piece features Dante entering the Gate of Hell. This mixed media work made use of watercolour, graphite and ink.

The delightful piece refers to Inferno III, 1–21 specifically and the content features Virgil leading Dante across the threshold of Hell. The inscription is placed above the gate on any area of the painting which is relatively blank, allowing us to see this wording more clearly. He wrote something fairly similar to the original text of 'Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate', but it wasn't entirely the same, word for word. It may have been as a result of the artist interpreting the words himself, rather than copying it exactly. The moment at which Dante enters the gate he is overcome with fear and sadness, weaping uncontrollably from fear. Some have suggested that this overall artwork involves the artist explaining his own aversion to the physical world, but others have disagreed with that summary.

The artist carefully uses colour and tone in this piece in order to communicate the atmosphere of this event. There are dark shades which help to increase this feeling of fear and danger, whilst around the gate on the approach are some bright green bushes that feel much more vibrant and positive. The style in which Blake creates the two main figures is entirely typical of his approach which fell someway between painting and drawing, discovering a beautiful balance which enabled him to display his talents with both within the same artwork. Watercolours would allow some of his sketch lines to show through, whilst oils would have covered up all of his original work.

The Inscription over the Gate can be considered amongst the finest creations of William Blake, even though he produced such a huge amount of drawings and paintings across his career. It competes favourably with other notable pieces such as Newton, Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils and The Ancient of Days which were also impressively delivered within the unique artistic style of William Blake. The Tate in the UK hosts a good number of artworks from across his career and they continue to acquire new items every now and again with financial help from a number of related arts charities. Some of the drawings are stored within a Prints and Drawings section that can only be viewed by prior appointment, but others are out on permanent display and can normally be seen in London entirely free of charge. The Tate comprises of a number of different galleries, each one being targeted at a different period of their overall collection.

The Inscription over the Gate in Detail William Blake