The two sinners duking it out in William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s depiction of hell appeal to the vampire-obsessed among us. The French painter concocted this Dante-inspired scene in hopes of winning the coveted Prix de Rome. Dante enjoyed renewed popularity during this time: Fellow Romantic painters were similarly enthralled; the poet provided deliciously dramatic fodder for their theatrical canvases.
Bouguereau chose to zoom in on two damned souls from the epic poem in order to emphasize their physical pain. Surrounded by writhing sinners, Dante and Virgil look on as Gianni Schicchi, a character guilty of committing fraud, viciously bites the neck of Capocchio, a heretic and alchemist. (Inferno describes constant fighting as one of hell’s many punishments.) The painter pays particular attention to his subjects’ nude bodies; dramatically lit, their muscles and expressions strain in utter agony. Writing at the time, critic Théophile Gautier described the duo’s “strange fury,” rendered “magnificently through muscles, nerves, tendons, and teeth.” Only the bald, bat-winged demon hovering over them seems to take any pleasure in the scene.
Original art by: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1850
• Paper thickness: 10.3 mil
• Paper weight: 5.6 oz/y² (192 g/m²)
• Giclée printing quality
• Opacity: 94%
• 21×30cm posters are size A4
Original art by: John Martin, 1841