Halfway through his seven year stay in Rome (1787 to 1794), the British sculptor and designer John Flaxman received a commission from Thomas Hope (1769-1821) for a set of drawings for Dante’s Divine Comedy. By the time these 109 drawings were finished, Flaxman had other commissions from Mr. Udney and Mrs. Hare-Naylor for drawings after the Iliad and the Odyssey and from Countess Dowager Spencer for Aeschylus drawings. Flaxman worked furiously, sculpting during the day and drawing all night, to finish this work.
The Iliad and the Odyssey drawings were engraved by Tommaso Piroli (ca. 1752-1824) and published in Rome in 1793, followed by Aeschylus (1795). Hope wanted to keep the Dante drawings only for himself and so, an engraved edition did not appear until 1802. Back in England, Flaxman completed a set of drawings to Hesiod (1817) that were engraved by his friend William Blake (1757-1827). Princeton is fortunate to have a set of each.