“The Most Harrowing Paintings of Hell Inspired by Dante’s Inferno

“Dante Alighieri’s depiction of the afterlife has inspired generations of readers since the Divine Comedy was first published in 1472. In the 14,233 verses of this poem, Dante envisions a trip to the afterlife, guided first by the Roman poet Virgil, who leads him through Hell and Purgatory, and then by his beloved Beatrice, who leads him through Paradise. His detail-rich descriptions of Hell, envisioned as nine concentric circles containing souls of those “who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen,” have inspired artists for the last five centuries. Here are some of the most poignant visualizations of Dante’s Inferno.

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Stradanus, Canto VIII (1587-1588)

Flemish painter Jan van der Straet, known by his Italian name ‘Stradanus,’ completed a series of illustrations of the Divine Comedy between 1587 and 1588, currently preserved at the Laurentian Library in Florence. This illustration refers to Canto VIII, where the wrathful and slothful are punished. Stradanus combines elements of Italian Mannerism, such as painstaking attention to detail, with distinctive Flemish traits like the physiognomy of the demonic figure steering Dante’s boat, who shows a deeply harrowing expression.”    –V. M. Traverso, Aleteia, July 17, 2020

Beatrice Doodle Mask

Beatrice doodle mask designed by Chris Corbin.

Check out the mask on Redbubble here.

Glensound’s Inferno

“Inferno is a commentary system for a single user, or for a large multi commentator system. Connections use network audio cabling, either directly to the GSI-DARK88 break out box, or across a structured network. The Dante audio protocol is used to transport the audio, making the system flexible and programmable as part of a larger Dante system.”   –“Inferno” info sheet, Glensound

Glensound is a UK-based manufacturer specializing in audio hardware for live sound, studio, and broadcast. Besides Inferno, their products include units called Beatrice, Virgil, Styx, and Divine, all of which integrate with Dante-based systems.

DANTE is a digital media networking technology produced by Audinate. The acronym stands for Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet.

Contributed by Pete Maiers

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

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The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

“The Dante Code”

“Renaissance art fans will note that this sketch evokes Botticelli’s famous 1495 portrait of Dante Alighieri, the medieval author of the Divine Comedy. In this cornerstone of Italian literature, Dante describes his mythical journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise, guided first by the shade of the Roman poet Virgil and later by the ghost of Beatrice Portinari, the girl Dante loved in childhood but never married. Among other things, the Divine Comedy is an allegory of Christian suffering and redemption, a romantic love story, a veiled account of Dante’s political exile from his beloved Florence, and a cultural manifesto that established the Italian language as a legitimate literary alternative to Latin. There are no obvious references to Iceland in the Divine Comedy, an epic poem of more than 14,000 lines whose original manuscript has never been found, or in any of Dante’s other works. Nowhere in the various accounts of Dante’s life is it mentioned that he ever visited Iceland. So why are we here?

We’re here because Gianazza has spent the past decade trying to prove his theory that the Divine Comedy is not a mythical story about the afterlife but rather a factual, albeit coded, account of a secret journey to Iceland Dante made in the early 1300s. Why would Dante shlep all the way from exile in sunny Ravenna to a cold, foggy island populated by Scandinavian farmers and their livestock, and not tell anyone? Gianazza believes that Dante was following in the footsteps of medieval Christian warriors called the Knights Templar. He hypothesizes that these knights had visited Iceland a century earlier carrying a secret trove that they concealed in an underground chamber in the Jökulfall Gorge.

The Templars picked Iceland for their hiding place, Gianazza believes, because it was one of the most distant and obscure places known to medieval Europeans, who sometimes identified it with the frozen, semimythical Ultima Thule of classical geography. The Templars calculated the exact coordinates of the chamber and identified landmarks to orient future visitors. Years later Dante acquired the secret knowledge, made a pilgrimage to the site, and then coded the directions into his great epic so that future generations might follow in his footsteps. Like Dante before him, Gianazza is searching for what some might call the Holy Grail, a term that he avoids. Having cracked Dante’s code, he expects to find early Christian texts and perhaps even the lost original manuscript of the Divine Comedy, all sealed in lead to guard them from the damp Icelandic weather. Gianazza launched his quest several years before Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, but in some ways he’s a more cautious, real-life version of symbologist Robert Langdon, the hero of Brown’s best-selling thriller.”    –Richard McGill Murphy, Town & Country, January 18, 2013

Per le rime: Beatrice risponde a Dante by Enrico Bernard

“Una nuova forma di saggio sperimentale presentato come monologo lirico-drammatico sul più grande rapporto d’amore della letteratura mondiale. Fu vero amore? Oppure Dante si prese qualche licenza poetica e qualche libertà espressiva? Un divertente cavalcata al femminile nei canti del Paradiso che vengono smontati e ridefiniti dalla protagonista stessa, Beatrice, che finalmente fa sentire la sua non più flebile, ma dura e contestatrice voce.”    –Enrico Bernard, Amazon, December 1, 2016

Waiting for Dante by Roger Williamson

“It was then she appeared, Beatrice, she who would show me, just in time, the illusion of the beast and the spell to return it to the glass.

Virgil, who was able to bring me into this world but not out of it, because of his own self imprisonment in it, began to fade from view and as he paled so Beatrice seemed to absorb his substance and morphed into my new guide.”    –Roger Williamson, Saatchi Art, October 24, 2015

“Il Dante di Pupi Avati”

“Da studiosa del tardo medioevo letterario, nonché da appassionata di cinema, trovo molto interessante l’idea di Pupi Avati di costruire un racconto cinematografico sulla vita dell’Alighieri prendendo le mosse dal Trattatello in laude di Dante di Giovanni Boccaccio, che è – come si sa – la biografia più antica sulla prima corona della nostra letteratura. Si tratta di un’idea senza dubbio originale e, nel contempo, difficile.

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Il Trattatello in laude di Dante è il risultato di un’instancabile ricerca di notizie e documenti recuperati dal Certaldese in diversi luoghi della nostra penisola (soprattutto fra Toscana e Romagna) e grazie alla diretta testimonianza di amici (Giovanni Villani, Cino da Pistoia e Dino Perini), discepoli (Pietro Giardini), parenti del poeta (Andrea di Leone Poggi) e di familiari della stessa Beatrice (la cugina Lippa de’ Mardoli). Una parte degli elementi biografici è poi da lui desunta naturalmente dalle opere letterarie dell’Alighieri, comprese le sue epistole.”    –Monica Berte, Insula Europea, January 30, 2020

Dante’s Inferno Video Game 10 Years Later

“Released back in 2010 by Visceral Games – the lovely folks who brought us Dead Space – Dante’s Inferno is a creative adaptation of the classic poem. Through its incredible design, gameplay, and narrative, Dante’s Inferno has come to be one of the most exhilarating action games of the 2010s.

For the sake of presenting a more action-driven story, Visceral went ahead and made a few changes to the source material. Whereas Dante is a poet and Beatrice is a symbol of Divine Love in the poem, the former is a soldier and the latter is his lover in the game.

The story begins with Dante during the Third Crusade (1189–1192). In the midst of combat, he is all of a sudden stabbed; he awakens on another plane having to confront the physical embodiment of death. After defeating death, Dante steals his scythe and returns home – only to find his father and love Beatrice dead. This is when Dante discovers the latter’s soul being dragged to Hell by Lucifer. From there, along with his guide Virgil (just like in the poem), Dante transverses through Hell to save his love (laying waste to every demon in his path).

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Ten years later and I’m still amazed by this game. From its fantastic action and creative approach to the source material, Dante’s Inferno is a fascinating title. Inferno proved to be a visual treat to me when I first read it; never could I have ever expected how Visceral Games could take such a classic and elevate its imagery. Dante’s Inferno is not only an amazing action game, but it’s also an excellent journey into one of the most nightmarish representations of Hell ever depicted in art.”    –Michael Pementel, Bloody Disgusting, February 4, 2020

“Dante, Near and Far”

“There is much strange in La Vita Nuova, the libello or ‘little book’ that Dante composed fifteen or so years before starting in on the Divine Comedy. Take, for starters, the form of the book, an alternation of prose and poetry that produces effects as dizzying as any in Williams’s Spring and All. Or take the central narrative, which describes a love—young Dante’s, for the slightly younger Beatrice—so intense that it causes the poet to faint in public and forces him, poor lad, to write lying love poems to the donne dello schermo, the ‘screen ladies’ he uses to hide the real object of his affection. Take even Beatrice herself, who begins the book as a girl in a girdled dress only to reveal herself not long after as a miracle made flesh.

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That night Dante has a dream, and—perhaps predictably, dreams being dreams—this is where things get weird. In his sleep the poet sees uno segnore di pauroso aspetto emerge from a fiery cloud. Despite his fearful aspect the lord is happy, very possibly because he is carrying in his arms a naked woman asleep beneath a crimson drape. After Dante realizes that the woman is Beatrice, the lord holds up a burning object and tells the dreaming poet, in Latin, Behold your heart. At that moment the lord wakes Beatrice and starts to force-feed her Dante’s flaming heart. With understandable reluctance, Beatrice eats the thing until the lord’s happiness mysteriously turns to grief and he carries her away, presumably to heaven.

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Here, too, we get the chance to meet Dante at his most queasily familiar: not as a prodigy reveling in the warm validation of his peers, but as a callow poetaster hearing harsh words from a poet he respects. It’s probably too easy to admire da Maiano’s sonnet for its precocious snark, but I appreciate his poem even more for the rare gift it affords: the chance for once to meet Dante outside the glare of his own genius.”    –Robert P. Baird, The Best American Poetry, January 9, 2012