“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

“Parenting Hell” from Litterbox Comics

Posted October 27, 2019, on Litterbox Comics.

“Catholic Sculptor Re-Creating Dante’s Divine Comedy Aims to Shift the Emphasis off Hell”

“In preparation for the 700th anniversary of the death of medieval poet Dante Alighieri, a Canadian artist is creating a sculptural tribute to his Divine Comedy that would be the first sculptural rendition of the entire poem.

‘In our culture Dante is becoming lost,’ said sculptor Timothy Schmalz in an interview with Religion News Service on Monday (July 20).

Not only is Dante less and less required reading, Schmalz said, but his Divine Comedy is often misrepresented by putting the focus only on the first part — the descriptions of hell and its fiery punishments.

[. . .]

There are 100 cantos in the poem, which have previously been represented in etchings and drawings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli, Gustave Doré and William Blake, but Schmalz would be the first to represent the full poem through sculpture.

‘I realized why it hasn’t been done before,’ he said. ‘It’s so much work.'”    –Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service, July 21, 2020

Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules”

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Wikimedia Commons)

“‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,’ Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and ‘watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing’ by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by ‘doing very bad things.’

“And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

[. . .]

“But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.”   — Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules,” New York Times (September 19, 2020)

Contributed by Dan Christian

“Marcus Berkmann: Circles of Hell”

“‘No, that’s definitely the way you want to go,’ said the same man in the hi-vis jacket, whose integrity we were beginning to doubt. But every route we tried, the satnav eventually led us back to the same roundabout, often by the most circuitous of routes. We had no mobile coverage, so could not raise a map by those means. It was like an episode of The Prisoner. Every wrong turning we took, we expected a huge white barrage balloon to head us off.”    –Marcus Berkmann, The Independent, October 9, 2015

“Students Enjoy the Nine Circles of Hell” at Knox College

“With screams emanating from the Q&A House and a long line waiting for their turn, 99 students traveled through the nine circles of hell on Saturday night.

Groups of up to three students traveled through the transformed living room, kitchen and basement, being scared by 12 student actors playing roles or helping behind the scenes in the Dante’s Inferno themed house.

‘The interesting thing from this year is usually you have a guide, a very creepy guide, that takes you through the haunted house. And this time you have the narrator telling you which circle you’re in, and it’s usually through a wall, and you have to follow a laid out path,’ senior Melissa Sher said.

Despite the cold weather, students waited for over an hour at times on Saturday, and in total almost 140 students traveled through the 10-15 minute haunted house on Saturday and Sunday, beating the previous year’s total.

‘[This year was] just as creepy,’ senior Katie Haynes said, ‘They hold themselves to a pretty high standard and doing this is just wonderful.’

While some students found parts scary, others enjoyed the house and even spurted out some laughs.”    –John Williams, The Knox Student, November 2, 2011

“7 Circles of Library Hell” at Northwestern University

“Periodicals: The most frigid and judgmental part of the library. If you even think of talking or breathing above a whisper, you will be violently shushed (and maybe shanked).”    –Caroline Brown, North by Northwestern, February 22, 2016

Hell O’Dante

Hell o’ Dante è uno spettacolo di narrazione che affronta l’Inferno in 34 serate ognuna dedicata a un canto.

Attraverso una rigorosa ricerca e il commento di brani pop-rock suonati dal vivo, Saulo Lucci sviscera le terzine e i personaggi in esse racchiusi, la situazione storica e le pene tanto mirabilmente dipinte così come il pensiero dell’autore dando nuova vita a tutto ciò, per riconsegnare agli spettatori la bellezza di una commedia che merita più di ogni altra mai scritta l’attributo di Divina.”    —Cine Teatro Baretti, July 17, 2020

Dante’s Hell

“Soon, the world will be able to see an extraordinary film based on Dante Alighieri’s literary masterpiece, the Divine Comedy – Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Dante’s Hell is the first slate of a vibrant and historic documentary trilogy, which could be the blockbuster of the year.  Not until now, has this story been told so descriptively by visual art from artists of the highest caliber and an array of celebrities and known scholars.

Dante’s Hell, produced and directed by Boris Acosta, is a compelling four-quadrant and spectacular documentary like no other, presented as a visual and narrative journey to InfernoDante’s Hell is a rare and unique film featuring an amazing international cast such as Eric Roberts and Franco Nero, among more than 30 celebrities, scholars and artists from Italy, US, UK, including Monsignor Marco Frisina from The Vatican.”    —

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue S01E02

“On Season 1 Episode 2 of Rupaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue, Yvie Oddly claims that she is ‘in the seventh circle of hell’ when describing the chaos backstage of a live performance.”   –Contributor Ellie Marvin

Watch the full episode, which aired August 28, 2020, on VH1.

Contributed by Ellie Marvin (Florida State University MA ’21)