Gustave Dore Illustration: Empyrean

Gustave Dore illustration The EmpyreanThis astonishing engraving is from Dore’s magnificent illustrated version of Dante’s  Paradiso, Canto 31. It’s very hard to create a decent image of this online because there’s so much detail in the engraving. The main version I have is a large format publication by Omega Press, good because it’s large, bad because it’s on wood-free paper so the ink has settled in and it’s hard to capture the detail.

Interestingly, it’s the line engraving that makes it so fantastic. The original line illustrations are less steady. I think it’s the combination of Dore’s dramatic vision with the definitiveness of the engraver’s blade that creates such a powerful effect. Modern graphic artists like Bernie Wrightson, particularly in his Frankenstein images, and Barry Windsor Smith have recreated this effect with their own magnificent pen and ink illustrations.

Empyrean is the Highest Heaven of Dante’s heavenly structure. The two silhouetted figures are Dante and his guide Beatrice looking up at the Saints and Angels.