The Slave Ship

7:00 AM

J.M.W. Turner, The Slave Ship. 1840.

... And when he rises stares about confused
By the great anguish that he knows he feels,

And looking, sighs; so was that sinner dazed 
When he stood up again. Oh, power of God!
How severe its vengeance is, to have imposed

Showers of such blows.
- Inferno, Dante, Canto XXIV

"I'm going to hell." We all say it, tell other people to go there, but after reading this book, the statement rang painfully true. Though it's exaggerated, if this is truly how the afterlife works... humanity is doomed. The not-so-forgiving God described in Dante's Inferno doesn't seem to give his people many chances, such as sending people historically viewed as heroes into the depths of the Malebolge - though Dante sends his enemies there, as well. God's infinite wrath puts people in horrid situations, like swimming in excrement, drowning with one's feet on fire, or everlasting ass-prodding from demons. This piece, The Slave Ship, directly depicts punishment as the shipwreck.

Its initial title being "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on," Turner's piece has such contrast between the foreground and background, the shipwreck in the background serving as the punishment a wrathful God has wrought coming towards the bodies in the unclean, impure looking water meeting their ends - and the slavers' upcoming ends - with the monsters within. Turner, when showing this piece, paired it with his own epigraph, the last line of which reads,  "Hope, Hope, fanacious Hope!/Where is thy market now?" He plays upon the business aspect of the act he depicts, the unceremonious tossing of the dead and dying slaves into the ocean. The hell Turner brings to eerie life in this piece and the one met in the Inferno bring severe outlooks of punishment to the viewer, the unforgiving finger of God placing his mark in each.

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