- Museum number
Object: Darstellungen aus Dante's Hölle (Scenes illustrating Dante's Hell)
Object: Dante vor den drei gierigen Thieren zurückbebend (Dante shrinking in fear from the three ravenous beasts)
Dante in conversation with Virgil; three wild beasts approaching from right; zodiac sign of aries on the sky to right; trees to left; first plate of the series. 1807-8
- Production date
Height: 330 millimetres
Width: 378 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, BM 1994, no. 101 :
Koch's intention to illustrate Dante is first mentioned in a letter to Frauenholz on 30 January 1802; he reported that he was working in the evenings and on wet days on illustrating the entire 'Divine Comedy', and had already more or less completed over thirty illustrations for the 'Inferno' as outline drawings: "I will now go through everything again, and ask the most learned students of Dante for their advice. What I have done so far has been much praised. At the moment I have undertaken the work out of pure enthusiasm; I am a great admirer of Dante, and the endless variety of character and the painterly scenes make this poem very interesting" (Lutterotti letter 1).
Although Koch never went beyond the 'Inferno', he prepared a great number of drawings; he intended one illustration for each of the thirty-three cantos, and for these over 200 studies survive. But they never came to any final conclusion. The fact that he made any prints is due to the arrival in Rome in 1807 of a twenty-one year old enthusiast and son of a banker, Franz Xavier Dall'Armi. He and his associate Raphael Winter imported from Munich the first lithographic press to be seen in Italy, on which Koch made one print at some point between 1807-9 (see 1983,0305.2-21). He also encouraged Koch to make these etchings, by undertaking to see to the marketing. A subscription was foreseen "in more than 75 copies of a substantial size, with light and shade in the manner of Dürer's woodcuts", and Artaria in Vienna signed up for twelve copies.
But only five plates were made (1975,0621.4-7, plus one other, 'The punishment of the thieves', which is also in the British Museum's collection) before Dall'Armi broke off the collaboration, apparently discouraged by critical comments coming back from Munich. The plates remained with the artist, and only proofs were printed. By 1810 a friend of Koch's noted in his diary that he had forgotten Dante and was now thinking of illustrating the Niebelungenlied. He only returned to Dante around 1820 in a set of sepia drawings for Dr Nott, and in 1825 for the frescoes on the four walls of a room in the Casino Massimo (a project originally allocated to Peter Cornelius and then to Philipp Veit, who completed the ceiling).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2007 Aug-Nov, Grasmere, Dove Cottage, 'Dante Rediscovered'
1994/5 Sept-Jan, BM, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, no. 101
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Divine Comedy, Inferno (Canto I, lines 31 to 60)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number