The Whirlwind of Lover
Nia Confer April 13, 2011 Essay #2 – Topic # 3 Weathering the Storm The Whirlwind of Lover’s by William Blake hauntingly depicts Canto V of Dante’s Inferno, The Second Circle of Hell which houses the whining spirits of the Lustful. Appropriately the lovers are swayed about the circle by their strong uncontrollable passions without pause, metaphorically demonstrated by a constant stormy wind. Through color and this painting’s intricate detail, a dark, hopeless mood creates a distinct tone of desperation and misery that mirrors the dreadful descriptions in the Divine Comedy’s Canto V. The main focal point of the image being the churn of lost souls, to the right stands an authoritative figure, orchestrating the storm of spirits and judging their unrepentant sins. Indications of this faceless character’s identity are found in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno though not made apparent in the painting. William Blake’s portrayal in the Whirlwind of Lover’s is the visual equivalent to Canto V of Dante’s Inferno and does an outstanding job at interpreting the infinite misery of those who will always dwell in the depicted Second Circle of Hell through his accurate drawing and use of dark dull colors for emotion. As described in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno, William Blake’s painting The Whirlwind of Lovers portrays a fitting punishment that includes the spirits to be strung along by a hellishly strong wind, many eternally accompanied by the shadow of their former lovers. The painting shows vivid images of sinners caught in a wickedly powerful airstream, screaming in their angst and dwelling in the remains of their worldly indiscretions. The mere visualization of the hopeless shadows creates an unsettling mood of desolation that is similarly illustrated in the Canto V. line 30. “The infernal storm, external in rage,
sweeps and drives the spirits with its blast.” As Canto V accurately describes the horrors found in the Lustful Circle in Hell, William Blake’s painting counterparts the satanic atmosphere and temperament with his visually stunning imagery. Many of the shadows are pictured with their arms flailing, almost in a reaching manner, which may be explained by Canto V’s description of the retribution of eternal togetherness which proved to be the downfall for the dwellers of this circle. In Canto V, Dante shares a revealing conversation with Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paola. “He never leaves my side,” she explains as her companion weeps in agony. “Love led us straight to sudden death.” These first hand accounts express the callous, but suitable punishment for sins unrepented lustful in nature as it is demonstrated in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno and in William Blake’s art. Components of the painting, like color, also intensify the gruesome torment amongst the inhabitants of this circle. Colors, in the painting Whirlwind of Lovers by William Blake, play a grave role in portraying not only the actual goings on of the 2nd Circle in Hell but strengthen an emotional connection to the already emotive scene. The colors of the powerful storm and its victims are an array of dull browns, which makes apparent the draining plague that the sinful offenders will be ruled by forever. Shade reflecting brush strokes throughout the currents of air indicate a movement among the corrupt shadows, a movement also described in Canto V of the epic Dante’s. Aside from this painting’s focal point, the raging storm of lovers, deep hues of a dark blue shade the fore & background the painting. Blue is a pigment associated with melancholy and unhappiness, one that perfectly demonstrates the sorrowful nature of doom to be found in the Second Circle, or any circle, in Hell. Furthermore, the color blue, especially the almost haunting shade used in The Whirlwind of Lovers, offers an aura of cruel coldness that exemplifies the horror of the troubled, everlasting afterlife. Color plays an invaluable role in enhancing the depression and disastrous fate of Hell’s Second Circle.
William Blake’s painting The Whirlwind mainly focuses on the hurricane of lustful shadows, however amongst the swirl of immodest sinners stands a figure of unidentified character that may be revealed in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno. In the painting, a bright light creates a glare effect that hides the face and therefore identity of the figure. Some scholars have offered the opinion that this faceless figure is a representation of Minos as described in Canto V. line 4. “There stands Minos grotesquely, and he snarls, examining the guilty at the entrance.” A judge of the underworld, Minos allocates souls to their proper place in hell. These devilish duties are properly portrayed in William Blake’s Whirlwind of Lovers as the figure eerily oversees the chaotic cyclone, heightening the already ungodly sentiments in the artwork that mirrors the gloom in the corresponding Canto V. According to Dante’s Inferno, rank is component that does not exist, though Minos’ responsibility sets of him apart, a distinction that is properly depicted in William Blake’s painting The Whirlwind of Lovers. There is a definite equivalence between the modern painting the Whirlwind of Lovers by William Blake and the historic Canto V of Dante’s Inferno which the painting was inspired by. The most obvious connection between the two works is mirrored subject matter of the Second Circle of Hell, the final dwelling place of the lustful. More subtle, a tonal and emotional linking is made amid the two pieces by the use of dull and dark colors throughout the painting that in essence illustrate the grim descriptions in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno. Though not the focal point of Blake’s the Whirlwind of Lover’s, the identity of the faceless figure orchestrating the storm of sinner is discovered through textual evidence found in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno. Both artists and their fore mentioned works are invaluable creatively and address very sensitive but always relevant topics, Hell’s existence and lustful convictions. Also worthy of applause, there is a synchronicity of tone and temper achieved between Blake’s painting and Dante’s Inferno that not only shows the expertise of both artist but the eloquence of the two as well. Moreover, this author won’t be committing any sins soon; I can’t weather the storm.