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A man with scaly skin and bat-like wings surrounded by large serpents

At center stands a naked man with bat wings and red scaly skin, facing the viewer and tilting his head back to lean on his left shoulder. A long green tail is seen protruding from his back and curling in front of his right leg. At his feet a large serpent is curled behind and around him, looking up at him. In the background, other snakes look on, peeking out from behind small hills in the middle distance. Above, a cloudy sky is deep blue at left, and bright yellow at right.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
William Blake, British (London, England 1757 - 1827 London, England)
Agnello de Brunelleschi of Florence Being Transformed into a Serpent (from Dante's "Divine Comedy")
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Agnolo de Brunelleschi Half Transformed by the Serpent
Series/Book Title: Dante, "The Divine Comedy"
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Watercolor, black ink, graphite, and black chalk on off-white antique laid paper
37 × 52.3 cm (14 9/16 × 20 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lr: HELL Canto 25
    on verso: 73 N48 next at p. 57
  • watermark: fleur-de-lys on shield, crowned, with monogram WE (doubled in mirror-image) below


Recorded Ownership History
Commissioned from the artist by John Linnell, 1821, sold through his sale [Christie's, London, March 15, 1918, as part of lot 148]; to Alec Martin for the National Art-Collections Fund, London. [Scott & Fowles, New York], sold; to Grenville Lindall Winthrop, New York, 1922, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art


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Publication History

  • Dante Alighieri and Henry Francis Cary, The Vision (3 vols.) or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri, Taylor and Hessey (London, 1819), vol. 1, pp. 218-19 ("Hell" 25.59-70)
  • Alexander Gilchrist, The Life of William Blake: Pictor Ignotus (3 vols.), Macmillan and Co. (London, Cambridge, 1863), vol. 2, pg. 219, no. 101 (y1)
  • William Blake, Illustrations to the Divine Comedy of Dante by William Blake, National Art-Collections Fund (London, 1922), no. 52, repr.
  • Albert S. Roe, Blake's Illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1953), pp. 108-9, no. 52, repr.
  • Agnes Mongan, "The Fogg Art Museum's Collection of Drawings", Harvard Library Bulletin, Harvard University (Cambridge, 1958), vol. 3, no. 2, March, pp. 5-9, p. 202
  • G. E. Bentley, Blake Records, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1969), pp. 291, 313
  • Milton Klonsky, Blake's Dante: The Complete Illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Harmony Books (New York, 1980), pp. 79, 149, repr.
  • Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 1981), pg. 555, no. 812.52, 823, repr.
  • Anne Maheux, "An Analysis of the Watercolour Technique and Materials of William Blake" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, July 16, 1982), Unpublished, pp. 1-50 passim
  • Geoffrey Galt Harpham, On the grotesque: strategies of contradiction in art and literature, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1982), p. 10, fig. 5
  • Corrado Gizzi, Blake e Dante, exh. cat., Mazzotta (Milan, 1983), pg. 133, no. 55, repr.
  • Anne Maheux, "An Analysis of the Watercolor Technique and Materials of William Blake", Blake: an Illustrated Quarterly (Spring 1984), 17, no. 4, pp. 125, 127, 128, repr. (details)
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 284, p. 242, repr.
  • David Fuller, "Blake and Dante", Art History (September 1988), 11, no. 3, pp. 369-70
  • Krzystof Z. Cieszkowski, "'They mumuring divide; while the wind sleeps beneath, and the numbers are counted in silence': the Dispersal of the Illustrations to Dante's 'Divine Comedy.'", Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly (Winter 1989-1990), 23, no. 3, pg. 170
  • Eugene Paul Nassar, Illustrations to Dante's Inferno, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ, 1994), pg. 289, repr.
  • David Bindman, William Blake: The Divine Comedy/Die göttliche Komödie/La divine comédie, Bibliothèque de l'Image (Paris, 2000), pp. 128-29, pl. 55 (color)
  • Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), p. 58, fig. 12
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), cat. no. 150, repr. (color)
  • Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 150, repr.
  • David Bindman, Stephen Hebron, and Michael O'Neill, Dante Rediscovered: From Blake to Rodin, exh. cat., The Wordsworth Trust (Grasmere, UK, 2007), p. 140, fig. 14

Exhibition History

  • Original Water-colour Drawings by William Blake to Illustrate Dante, Scott and Fowles, New York, 01/01/1921 - 12/31/1921
  • Exhibition of Watercolors and Drawings by William Blake, 1757-1827, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/01/1947 - 11/30/1947
  • A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

Related Works

Verification Level

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