Blake’s Illustrations of Dante. Plate 1: “The Circle of the Lustful: Paolo and Francesca”. Dante. William Blake.

Blake’s Illustrations of Dante. Plate 1: “The Circle of the Lustful: Paolo and Francesca”.

1954. US: 1954.

Large folio, fine, clear uniform impression on hand-made paper with no watermark, inscribed in pencil by Lessing Rosenwald (see below).

§ The best of Blake's illustrations of Dante, often called the “Whirlwind of lovers”. It depicts a scene from the fifth canto of The Inferno in which Dante, guided by Virgil, sees the sinful bodies of lovers "whom love bereav'd of life," trapped in a whirlwind, rising to heaven.

Incomplete at the time of his death in 1827, Blake’s illustrations for the Divine Comedy, commissioned by John Linnell, are some of his finest and most affecting inventions. From 102 illustrations, ranging from pencil sketches to finished watercolors, Blake made seven engravings, also left incomplete. Though unfinished, these prints are still reckoned amongst the most powerful and moving of Blake’s images and are especially impressive by virtue of their large size.

This impression from the original plate was printed for Lessing Rosenwald in 1953/4 (this impression is dated 6/14/1954). No number is given though Keynes (Blake Studies) suggested 20 sets plus three extra prints of plate 1; the later (1968) printing of restrikes for the Trianon Press edition was limited to 25 sets. Essick notes (see below) that “In 1953-55, Rosenwald had sets printed on heavy, dead-white wove paper with a surprisingly bold, pebble-grain surface. The plates had to be printed with considerable pressure in order to smooth the paper sufficiently to register fine lines. In a complete suite of these restrikes in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, each sheet measures 35.5 50.5 cm. and is inscribed in pencil, lower right, “Impression taken from the copper plate in my collection 1953-4[.] Lessing J Rosenwald 4/19/55.” and records watermarks on some sheets.

Bentley, Blake Books, 448D. Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake, 647–653. Essick, “The Printings of William Blake’s Dante Engravings,” Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, Fall 1990. Item #107739

Price: $7,500.00

See all items in Artwork, Blake
See all items by