William-Adolphe Bouguereau was known for bright, sexy, crowd-pleasing paintings—he only made one piece that might be considered a work of terribilita or ‘horrific’ art. Dante and Virgil in Hell was painted in a third attempt to win the Prix du Rome, and depicted one of the judges’ favorite themes, a scene from The Inferno, where Dante and Virgil watch a gristly fight between two damned souls.
Bouguereau was not awarded the Prix for this work, (he finally won with his later work, Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes) but the painting was well received. Critic Théophile Gautier described the piece, saying: “Gianni Schicchi throws himself at Capocchio, his rival, with a strange fury, and Monsieur Bouguereau depicts magnificently through muscles, nerves, tendons and teeth, the struggle between the two combatants. There is bitterness and strength in this canvas–strength, a rare quality!”
Reed Enger, "Dante and Virgil in Hell," in Obelisk Art History, Published November 25, 2015; last modified October 11, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/william-adolphe-bouguereau/dante-and-virgil-in-hell/.