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Two Heads of Damned Souls from Dante's "Inferno" (front and back)

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Henry Fuseli
Swiss, active in England, 1741-1825

About this artwork

Henry Fuseli created the expressive head studies on each side of this unprimed canvas using strategically placed highlights and deep shadows built up of thin washes. The artist probably painted these oil sketches while living in Italy between 1770 and 1778. Both images were engraved as illustrations for Johann Caspar Lavater’s influential book on physiognomy, a popular pseudoscience that assessed an individual’s character based on their outward appearance. According to that text, the heads were inspired by the damned souls in Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s epic Inferno.


On View, Gallery 219


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Henry Fuseli


Two Heads of Damned Souls from Dante's "Inferno" (front and back)


England (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


Heinrich Fuessly / 1741-1825 (verso, lower left)


Edges irregular, approx.: 40.6 × 29.8 cm (16 × 11 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

The Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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