The Whirlwind of Lovers


The Circle of the Lustful: Francesca da Rimini (‘The Whirlwind of Lovers’) by William Blake 1826–7

After the success of the engravings of ‘The Book of Job’, Linnell commissioned Blake to make prints of the Dante series as well. It’s interesting to note that David as Satan in Prometheus had tested Elizabeth Shaw as Job, now is the next phase Alien: Covenant. However, by the time of Blake’s death in 1827 only seven engravings had been made. This one illustrates a scene from Canto 5 of ‘Hell’. Virgil shows Dante those ‘whom love bereav’d of life’, including Paolo and Francesca. The daughter of a thirteenth-century lord of Ravenna, Francesca fell in love with her husband’s brother, Paolo. The betrayed husband had them both put to death. Dante, full of compassion, faints. Paolo and Francesca are also shown, truly united, above Virgil’s head. Blake’s original watercolour is in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham.

It’s interesting to note the similarities of the dynamics between Daniels, David and Walter. Walter being Daniels surrogate husband now that Jacob has passed away. And then David stealing Daniels away from Walter. Canto 5 is ultimately about the lovers being thrown around by tumultuous winds as punishment for their earthly sins. Walter now embodies the spirit of Dante and Paolo as he dies not once but twice, intervening in David’s awkward moment with Daniels.

Looks like happy endings don’t abound for any couples in David’s Hell, for there is no union for Daniels aboard the Covenant. Maybe only in her dreams.