Alfredo Jaar, “The Divine Comedy” (2019)

“A new tunnel, named Siloam, is an AUD$27M (£15m) underground extension to David Walsh’s privately owned MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart, Tasmania. The complex of chambers, gallery spaces and connecting tunnels of Siloam feature works by Ai Weiwei, Oliver Beer and Christopher Townend but the centrepiece is a new commission by Alfredo Jaar.

Jaar’s immersive installation The Divine Comedy (2019), is a three-room installation based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Visitors enter—ten at a time—into three pavilions interpreting each of the realms of the 14th-century epic poem. They will encounter fire and flood in Inferno; hover between life and death with a film by the US artist Joan Jonas in Purgatorio; and, finally, simply exist in the sensory void of Paradiso.”    –Tim Stone, The Art Newspaper, July 18, 2019

Dante’s millions

“As I write, the London world championship is tied at 3½-3½, after seven games. In striving to move ahead, the challenger, Fabiano Caruana, has been the victim of the awesome mathematics of chess. According to the statisticians there are more possible moves in chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe. Ten to the power of 70 is the official estimate. As someone with a good Italian name and ancestry, Fabiano may be familiar with Dante’s Paradiso. In Canto 28 the poet writes: ‘Ed eran tante, che ‘l numero loro, Piu che ‘l doppiar de li scacchi s’inmilla.’ In other words, the number of angels or intelligences in the heavens far exceeds the immense number created by placing a piece of corn on the first square of the chessboard and doubling each time until square 64 is reached. The number of grains on this square alone will be 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 and the total number of grains on the chessboard will be 36,893,488,147,419,103,231.” […]    –Raymond Keene, The Spectator, November 24, 2018

What Rod Dreher Ought to Know About Dante and Same-Sex Love

“Dante saved my life,” testifies Rod Dreher, senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative, in his recent book, How Dante Can Save Your Life (Simon & Schuster, 2015) about how the poet’s Divine Comedy can save yours as well. His soul-baring account of how Dante Alighieri and two other spiritual guides — a Christian Orthodox priest and an evangelical therapist –helped him escape a dark wood of stress-induced depression and physical illness is smart, moving, and thoroughly engaging. Dreher’s Dante, like Virgil in the poem, does the lion’s share of the guiding, and so earns top billing and occupies most of the narrative’s prime real estate. In showing how the poem brought deeper understanding of himself and his relationships with his father, sister, and God, and in sharing the substance of those life lessons with readers (mostly in appendices to the chapters), the author does not disappoint.

“For those of us who have studied, taught, and written on Dante’s works and their legacy over many years, Dreher’s understanding and use of the Commedia will undoubtedly raise legitimate doubts and objections. However, I found myself more often than not nodding in recognition at his deft discussion of characters, scenes, and themes of the poem. Most of his sharpest points pierce the surface of famous inhabitants of Hell — amorous Francesca, proud Farinata, worldly Brunetto, and megalomaniacal Ulysses are among the highlights; oddly for a book on rescuing lives and souls, he devotes fewer words to the saved individuals in Purgatory and Paradise.” […]    –Guy P. Raffa, Pop Matters, January 21, 2016

The Social Network of Dante’s Inferno

“The first product coming out from this crazy idea was “The Social Network of Dante’s Inferno“, presented in the 2010 edition of the “Arts, Humanities and Complex Networks” symposium of NetSci and then published in a 2011 special issue of the Leonardo journal. In this work we were moved by the question: is a network of characters following some particular predictive patterns? If so: which ones?

“So we took a digital copy of Dante’s Inferno, where all interactions and characters were annotated with extra information (who the character was, if she was a historic or mythological figure, when she lived, …). We then considered each character as a node of the network. We created an edge between two characters if they had at least a direct exchange of words. Normal people would call this “a dialogue”.

“The double-focus point of the Commedia emerges quite naturally, as Dante and Virgilio are the so-called “hubs” of the system. It is a nice textbook example of the rich-get-richer effect, a classic network result. But contrary to what the title of the paper says, we went beyond that. There are not only “social” relationships. Each character is also connected to all the information we have about her. There is another layer, a semantic one, where we have nodes such as “Guelph” or “Middle Ages”. These nodes enable us to browse the Commedia as a network of concepts that Dante wanted to connect in one way or another. One can ask some questions like “are Ghibelline characters preferably connected to historic or mythological characters?” or “what’s the centrality of political characters in the Inferno as opposed to the Purgatorio?” and create one’s own interpretation of the Commedia.” […]    Michele Coscia, Michele Coscia, 12 December, 2013

Kateřina Machytková, paintings (2016)


Paradiso 28.
See Kateřina Machytková’s website for her illustrations of the Commedia.

Guy Denning’s Oil Painting Series on the Commedia

Guy Denning is an artist based out of Finistere, France since 2007. Beginning in 2011, he created a three part series of oil paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The image above is a painting called “ch’io ‘l vidi uomo di sangue e di crucci” from his first series, ‘Inferno‘ (2011).

“In 2011 he presented ‘Inferno’, the first part of his three-part series of oil paintings on Dante’s Commedia in Bologna; this was his first exhibition in Italy and the complete exhibition sold out.
In 2011, he presented the second part of the series in New York City for the exhibition ‘Purgatorio’. Originally drawing inspiration from Dante’s writings, his intention was not to recreate the poem in a visual or literal sense, but instead let the ‘Purgatorio’ series act as a framework for his own personal interpretation of the world following 9/11. As with the writing of Shakespeare, Denning finds a perpetual relevance in Dante’s work where the specifics of name, situation and place are easily adapted to the modern world; as if time moves on but the problems of humanity remain essentially the same. The events of September 11th and the emotional toll it took on the US identity was a critical element to this body of work. Poignantly enough, this exhibition was held in a ‘pop-up’ location just blocks from Ground Zero and on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.” [. . .]    —Widewalls Magazine, 2017

On exhibition set- “Inferno”

“This was the first part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Inferno was exhibited at my first solo exhibition in Italy at MAGI’900 Museo, Bologna.”     –Guy Denning, on his site, January 19, 2017

On exhibition set- “Purgatorio”

“This was the second part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Purgatorio was exhibited in Manhattan at a pop-up gallery space by Brooklynite Gallery on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 30, 2017.

The image above to the right is a painting called “the cardinal virtue of media temperance” from the ‘Purgatorio‘ exhibition.

On exhibition set- “Paradiso”

“This was the third part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Paradiso was exhibited at Signal Gallery in London.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 27, 2017.

The image below is a painting called “Looking for Beatrice” from the ‘Paradiso‘ exhibiton.

To view Denning’s full list of exhibitions, check out his website here

“Atlanta Podcasters Go To Hell With ‘The Divined Comedy’”

“‘The Divined Comedy’ is a podcast which is devoted to talking about Dante Alighieri’s Inferno one canto at a time, taking plenty of detours into pop culture along the way.

“Hosts Paul Cantrell and David Fountain began ‘midway in their life’s journey’ in July and plan on covering the entirety of Alighieri’s fantasy about traveling through the nine levels of Hell before moving on to Purgatorio and finally Paradiso. That’s one hundred cantos in all.

“Billing themselves as ‘The Only Dante Podcast You’ll Ever Need, Ostensibly,’ Cantrell plays the role of a sort of cheerleader for Dante, encouraging Fountain through his first reading of the book.

“‘For a poem that is seven hundred years old,’ Fountain said, ‘you can find a remarkable amount of modern lessons in it, and it withstands a lot of poking and prodding.'” [. . .]    –Myke Johns, WABE, August 17, 2016.

You can listen to The Divined Comedy on Podomatic.

You can check out Dante Today’s post on The Divined Comedy here.

The Divined Comedy with Paul Cantrell & David Fountain

“THE ONLY DANTE PODCAST YOU’LL EVER NEED, OSTENSIBLY.

“Abandon all hope as Paul Cantrell & David Fountain discuss The Divine Comedy one canto at a time.” –description on Apple Podcasts app.

You can listen to all seventy-seven episodes of The Divined Comedy on their website and on Podomatic.

Gary Panter, Songy of Paradise (2017)

Gary-Panter-Songy-of-Paradise“The final issue of Jimbo – #7 – chronicles Jimbo’s descent into Hell, represented on the page as an abandoned mall. The comic is a scant 33 pages long, but Fantagraphics decided to make a big deal of it: they repackaged Jimbo #7 as Jimbo’s Inferno, a gigantic, 11×15 hardcover book, and followed it with Jimbo in Purgatory.

“The wider reading public began to notice what Panter was doing: each page corresponded to a canto in Dante’s classic poems. Though the improvisational-looking drawings were of robots or monsters or yokels on tractors, they were all part of a highly complex representational scheme that paid homage to, and made fun of, Dante all at once.

“The last volume in the trilogy ships this month: Songy of Paradise merges Dante’s Paradiso with Milton’s Paradise Regained, and tells the story of Jesus’s temptation in the desert, with a gap-toothed hillbilly named Songy taking the place of Jesus (Panter: ‘I didn’t want to deal with Jesus’).” –Sam Thielman, “Gary Panter: The Cartoonist Who Took a Trip to Hell and Back,” The Guardian, July 18, 2017

See also our previous post on Gary Panter’s 2006 graphic novel Jimbo’s Inferno here.

Thomas Centolella, “In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”

Although the most direct reference is to the 16th century Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Centolella’s poem also recalls the pilgrim’s examination on love by Saint John in Paradiso 26:

“In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”Thomas-Centolella-In-the-Evening-We-Shall-Be-Examined-on-Love-Paradiso
St. John of the Cross

And it won’t be multiple choice,
though some of us would prefer it that way.
Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
when we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
In the evening there shall be implications
our fear will change to complications. No cheating,
we’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure the cost of being true
to ourselves. In the evening when the sky has turned
that certain blue, blue of exam books, blue of no more
daily evasions, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
and park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
and try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
like defendants on trial, cross-examined
till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
in the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
we shall be examined on love like students
who don’t even recall signing up for the course
and now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
from the heart and not off the top of their heads.
And when the evening is over and it’s late,
the student body asleep, even the great teachers
retired for the night, we shall stay up
and run back over the questions, each in our own way:
what’s true, what’s false, what unknown quantity
will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
to look back and know
we did not fail.

From Thomas Centolella’s Lights and Mysteries (1995). See the text of the poem and other poems by Centolella at poetryfoundation.org.