The Barque of Dante, also known as Dante and Virgil in Hell, is a painting completed by French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix in 1822. The painting marks a shift from Neo-Classicism to Romanticism in narrative paintings. It depicts the scene from Canto VIII of Dante’s Divine Comedy where the Italian poet Dante Alighieri and his guide Virgil cross a lake filled with writhing souls of the damned.
Delacroix spent two and a half months working non-stop on the painting, which established him as one of the leading figures in the Romantic movement. As it broke with Neoclassical conventions, it polarized opinions when it was exhibited at Paris Salon — Delacroix’s first public exhibition.
Today held at Art Institute of Chicago, The Barque of Dante shows Delacroix’s mastery in creating an atmosphere that emphasizes emotion over reason. Through brushwork, color contrasts, and dramatic lighting, he captures vividly both physical torment and spiritual anguish experienced by each soul in hell.