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Two figures escaping along a cliff as bat-winged figures fly overhead. A second image shows rocks.

At lower right a robed figure runs along a narrow path on the side of a steep cliff. He carries another man in his arms and they both look up and behind them in fright. At upper left, just above a stone archway protruding from the cliff, a group of flying bat-winged devils descend from the sky toward the two men. In the distance below we see a landscape with rolling green hills and a curved band of red clouds just below the arch. The image on the reverse is a quick rough outline of large rocks.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
William Blake, British (London, England 1757 - 1827 London, England)
Dante and Virgil Escaping from the Devils (from Dante's "Divine Comedy"); verso: Sketch of rocks
Other Titles
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; verso: black chalk
52.3 × 36.9 cm (20 9/16 × 14 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lr: HELL Canto 23
  • watermark: W ELGAR / 1796


Recorded Ownership History
Commissioned from the artist by John Linnell, by 1830, 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, 1921, 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, pg. 198 ("Hell" 23.36-57)
  • Alexander Gilchrist, The Life of William Blake: Pictor Ignotus (3 vols.), Macmillan and Co. (London, Cambridge, 1863), vol. 2, pg. 219, no. 101 (p1)
  • William Blake, Illustrations to the Divine Comedy of Dante by William Blake, National Art-Collections Fund (London, 1922), no. 43, repr.
  • William Blake, Dante Alighieri, and Helen D. Willard, Blake's Illustrations for Dante, Harvard University Printing Office (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1953), repr.
  • Albert S. Roe, Blake's Illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1953), pg. 98, no. 43, 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), pg. 291
  • Milton Klonsky, Blake's Dante: The Complete Illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Harmony Books (New York, 1980), pp. 69, 147, repr.
  • Martin Butlin, The Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 1981), no. 812 (43), pl. 1054
  • Corrado Gizzi, Blake e Dante, exh. cat., Mazzotta (Milan, 1983), pg. 123, no. 45, repr.
  • 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
  • Charles H. Taylor and Patricia Finley, Images of the Journey in Dante's Divine Comedy, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, England, 1997), p. 80, fig. 76 (color)
  • David Bindman, William Blake: The Divine Comedy/Die göttliche Komödie/La divine comédie, Bibliothèque de l'Image (Paris, 2000), pl. 45 (color)
  • Wai Chee Dimock, "Nonbiological Clock: Literary History against Newtonian Mechanics", South Atlantic Quarterly (Winter 2003), 102, no. 1, pp. 153-177, pp. 169, 171, repr. p. 170 as fig. 2
  • 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. 149, repr. (color)
  • "Hell through the Ages", Index Magazine (e-journal, February 12, 2018),, accessed March 13, 2018
  • Jean Clair, Laura Bossi, and Scuderie Papali al Quirinale, Inferno, exh. cat. (Milan, 2021), pp. 193-195; repr. as fig. 3 on p. 193

Exhibition History

  • Exhibition of works by the old masters, and by deceased masters of the British school; including a collection of water colour drawings, &c., by William Blake, Frederick Calvert, Samuel Palmer, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 01/01/1893 - 12/31/1893
  • 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, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004
  • 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/08/2018 - 05/09/2018

Related Works

Verification Level

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