FUSELI, John Henry
(b. 1741, Zurich, d. 1825, London)

Dante and Virgil on the Ice of Kocythos

1774
Pen and sepia, watercolour, 390 x 274 mm
Kunsthaus, Zurich

One of the most brilliant artistic figure of the time was the Swiss painter, Fuseli, who lived in England. He mixed Neoclassicist and Romantic elements in an art influenced by antique sculpture and the works of Michelangelo. Fuseli depicted contorted bodies order to generate tension and pathos, to captivate the viewer's emotions and convey the terrors of the sublime. The Inferno in Dante's Divine Comedy, which was "rediscovered" in the mid-18th century, was especially suited to his purpose. Dante was seen as the very embodiment of the creative individual. The pen and ink drawing Dante and Virgil on the Ice of Kocythos shows the poet standing amongst the heads of those who have been frozen into the sea of ice which fills the crater of hell.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 16 minutes):
Franz Liszt: Dante-sonata