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William Blake Antaeus setting down Dante and Virgil in the Last Circle of Hell illustration to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri 1824-27

William BLAKE
Antaeus setting down Dante and Virgil in the Last Circle of Hell (1824-1827)

One of the NGV’s greatest treasures is its collection of thirty-six William Blake watercolours illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy. Blake produced 102 works for this project during a period of grave illness in the last years of his life. The watercolours are in various states of completion, and this one – illustrating the scene in which Virgil asks the giant Antaeus to set him and Dante down in the last circle of Hell – is one of the most finished. The work shows Blake’s extraordinary imagination and draftsmanship, as well as his mastery of technique: the stippling, rubbing and scratching out creates intense and luminous colour.