The Circle of the Lustful: Francesca da Rimini

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Paolo and Francesca cling to each other as they'll soon be engulfed in a whirlwind of lovers' souls
I, through compassion fainting, seem’d not far
From death, and like a corse fell to the ground.
(Hell; Canto V, line 137.)
(Plate 1.)

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McGill University Library, the Internet Archive
Observations:
Lower right, along the ripples of the stream, mirror-writing reading: "The Whirlwind of Lovers from Dantes Inferno Canto V"

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Description

Copper-plate engraving showing a scene from the second circle of Hell: Paolo and Francesca, both murdered at the behest of Francesca’s husband, cling to each other’s arms as they are about to be engulfed in a whirlwind of lovers’ souls. So moved was Dante by their story that he fainted at Virgil’s feet.

In 1826, shortly before his death, Blake started working on illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy. He had enough time to engrave seven plates, but maybe not to complete them all and some might be lacking the finishing touch. The collection presented here was bound in book form and is given as one of the thirty-eight sets published in 1838. Another run of 50 sets was printed on behalf of Linnell’s family around 1892, and a few more copies were printed again in 1955 and 1968.

The caption was taken from Rev. Henry Francis Cary’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. New York, London, and Paris: Cassel, Petter, Galpin & Co., n.d.

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