Dante-Dantes inferno.Divine Comedy-Limbo-Lust.

Dante's inferno.
Dante and Virgil in hell. (c1850)

Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Dante-Dantes inferno.Divine Comedy-Limbo-Lust(1875)
William Bouguereau Dante's inferno. Dante and Virgil in hell. (1850)

This large painting by William Bouguereau depicts a scene from Dantes inferno.

It is set on the banks of the river Styx which formed the boundary between earth and the under world. Dante is with Virgil who is his guide through the nine circles of Hell. The circles are concentric, representing a gradual increase in wickedness, and culminating at the centre of the earth, where the devil himself is held in bondage.

This painting depicts Dante in the fifth circle which represents Wrath and sullenness. He is standing on the left of the painting with the ghost of Virgil at his side.

They are looking upon the sins of wrath (extreme anger) and sullenness (sulkiness, moroseness, brooding resentment, gloominess, sluggishness.) The dominant male at the front of the piece is ruthlessly attacking his opponent in an attempt to tear his throat out with his teeth showing extreme wrathful behaviour. While this is going on a sullen some what distressed male lies on the floor at their feet. In the background their is a mass of mostly male entwined bodies, some exhibiting signs of sullenness while others are being wrathful toward each other. Others appear to be trying to avoid falling into a chasm of hot boiling liquid and are desperately trying to cling onto something to avoid their fate. Behind them a winged demon patiently watches over the proceedings.


Dante and Virgil looking upon the sins of wrath and sullenness Dante and Virgil looking upon the sins of wrath and sullenness. The expression on the face of Dante is clearly one of concern.

 Dante and Virgil in hell. A demon waits patiently.

The Winged demon, arms folded, patiently overseas proceedings as he looks upon the mass of writhing bodies.

Dante and virgil in hell. Clawing hand detail.


William Bouguereau was a master at painting with a photo like quality. The detail and realism of the fingers gouging at the flesh give the skin an almost three dimensional elastic appearance. Through out the work the muscle tone and sinewy detail of the bodies and the facial expressions show the extreme tension and determination of the subjects portrayed, all demonstrating Bouguereau's unique ability to produce convincing photo realistic portrayals of his subjects .

Dante and Virgil in Hell. a single female trying to attack a male from behind while he desperately tries to resist her.

Background detail from Dante and Virgil in hell. In this example among a mass of what appear to be predominantly males their is what appears to be a single female trying to attack a male from behind while he desperately tries to resist her. At her feet there is what appears to be another female who has fallen back into the mass of bodies. She is reaching up as if desperately awaiting to be assisted back to her feet. Her long fair hair can be seen through the crook of the fighting man in the forground's arm to the front of the piece.

Dante and virgil in hell. Contourted facial detail

A sullen some what distressed male lies at the feet of the duelling males. You can clearly see the angst and distress captured in the facial expression.

The above account is my interpretation of the work and should in no way be taken as fact.