Dante in poster for HBO’s series, “Succession” (2019)

Image on wall is a painting entitled “Dante and Virgil” (1850) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  It appears to be the falsifiers of Inf. 30, Capocchio and Gianni Schicchi, in combat.

Contributed by Kristina Olson 

The original painting, currently held in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, below.

Thinking Against Violence

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Images projected in Lyon, France, as tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. Credit Robert Pratta/Reuters

This is an interview with Brad Evans, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Bristol in England. He is the founder and director of the Histories of Violence project, a global research initiative on the meaning of mass violence in the 21st century.

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[…] “But let’s consider for a moment what the thinker [the sculpture by Rodin] is actually contemplating. Sat alone on his plinth, the thinker could in fact be thinking about anything in particular. We just hope it is something serious. Such ambiguity was not however as Rodin intended. In the original 1880 sculpture, the thinker actually appears kneeling before the Gates of Hell. We might read this as significant for a whole number of reasons. First, it is the “scene of violence,” which gives specific context to Rodin’s thinker. Thought begins for the thinker in the presence of the raw realities of violence and suffering. The thinker in fact is being forced to suffer into truth.

“Second, there is an interesting tension in terms of the thinker’s relationship to violence. Sat before the gates, the thinker appears to be turning away from the intolerable scene behind. This we could argue is a tendency unfortunately all too common when thinking about violence today. Turning away into abstraction or some scientifically neutralizing position of “objectivity.” And yet, according to one purposeful reading, the figure in this commission is actually Dante, who is contemplating the circles of hell as narrated in The Divine Comedy. This is significant. Rather than looking away, might it be that the figure is now actually staring directing into the abyss below? Hence raising the fundamental ethical question of what it means to be forced witness to violence?” […]   –Natasha Lennard and Brad Evans, The New York Times, December 16, 2015

As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above So Below

The thriller film As Above, So Below features a journey to the catacombs below Paris – and a Dantesque passage.

The wall above the entry to this passage reads, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Contributed by Erik Anderson, Hargrave Military Academy ’15

Le Cabaret de L’Enfer: Turn-of-the-Century Paris Nightclub Modeled After Hell

Cabaret-L'Enfer-Paris-Theme-Bars“As a general rule, theme bars are embarrassing affairs. You have your corny waitstaff, your overly literal decor and a sense of forced performance that’s… annoying. Once in a blue moon though, there has been a theme bar so fucking cool you would sell your soul to get in. Tragically, you would have to strike some kind of deal with the devil to go to Le Cabaret de L’Enfer, since the Paris red light district nightclub opened around the turn of the last century and closed sometime during the middle of it. Very little information exists on L’Enfer, but the detail in the decor is absolutely gorgeous—almost Boschian detail of twisting human, animal and skeletal forms—couldn’t you just die?”    –Posted by Amber Frost on Dangerous Minds

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Dante Street in Paris

 

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Contributed by Dien Ho

Edmund White, Inside a Pearl (2014)

inside-a-pearl-edmund-white-2014Jay Parini describes Marie-Claude de Brunhoff, a main character in Edmund White’s memoir Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris, as “a kind of fragile Virgil to White’s dewy-eyed Dante, leading him with gusto into the labyrinth of Parisian life.”    –Jay Parini, The New York Times, February 7, 2014

“Fall Sweeps”: A Dante Read-Along

DanteDetailLarge“Something is gnawing at the nape of your skull: on the one hand, your favorite fall shows are coming back…”

“You want to watch Boardwalk Empire—what will happen to Nucky Thompson, or Richard Harrow? You want to catch up on The Walking Dead, but then you remember that synaptic pruning, and a frightening question about the difference between you and an actual zombie floats through your head.

“The convenience of hour-long shows is that they often air on Sunday night, when you have nothing to do. We have a compromise. Don’t spend an hour on the latest would-be cable sensation; instead, tune in for the first season of The Divine Comedy, the hot, new (relatively speaking) series by Dante. Every week, ideally on Sunday at 9 P.M., read one canto—often less than 140 lines!—of what may be the best poem ever written. Season 1 is called the Inferno—think of it as your new Home Box Office.” [. . .]    –Alexander Aciman, The Paris Review, September 30th, 2013

See also Aciman’s Recapping Dante (the Inferno)

Yi Zhou, The Ear (2009), The Greatness (2010)

“Imagine that van Gogh, after slicing off his ear, finds himself sucked down a passage into his own brain, which turns out to be the concentric onion of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Then capture that journey with three-dimensional digital imaging software and turn it, frame by computerized frame, into a five-minute animated movie. [. . .]

“She had her first breakthrough when she was taken on by the Jerome de Noirmont gallery in Paris in 2002. Since then, she has had a major sculpture and video projection work, ‘Paradise,’ installed in the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, in 2006 [. . .].

“Ms. Zhou’s solo show of video art, ink brush drawings and sculpture at Shanghai Contrasts, running to Dec. 9, is built around her most recent film, The Greatness, a variation on the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“The film is a sequel to The Ear: both star Pharrell Williams, one in the flesh and the other as a sculpted vase, and both explore transience and death. In The Greatness, Mr. Williams’s look-alike vase, shattered by a bullet, disintegrates into a fractured universe while the bullet, like Dante guided by Virgil, travels through visions of hell and redemption accompanied by an other-worldly soundtrack composed by Mr. Morricone.” [. . .]    –Claudia Barbieri, The New York Times, December 1, 2010

The Thinker Sells For Record Price

the-thinker-rodin“The Thinker is one of the most recognizable sculptures in the world. It even has a role in the film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Last week one of the Thinker sculptures by French master Auguste Rodin was sold at auction for more than 3 million euros ($4.2 million) in Paris at auctioneers Drouot. This Thinker, which is just 28.5 inches high, set a record for any of the Thinkers. This statue is part of a series of 21 sculptures made by Rodin. It was originally meant to be part of Rodin’s Gates of Hell inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Rodin made a first small plaster version around 1880 and the first large scale bronze was presented to the public in 1904. This particular Thinker was purchased by Emile Chouanard in 1917, the same year it was cast. Another Rodin statue owned by Chouanard, ‘Little Eve’ also sold for a record price of over 2.4 million euros at the auction.”    –Deidre Woollard, Luxist, June 22, 2009

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Auguste Rodin, “The Gates of Hell”

auguste-rodin-gates-of-hell“On August 16, 1880, Rodin received a commission to create a pair of bronze doors for a new decorative arts museum in Paris. Although the museum did not come to fruition and the doors were never fully realized, The Gates of Hell became the defining project of Rodin’s career and a key to understanding his artistic aims. During the thirty-seven-year period that the sculptor worked on the project he continually added, removed, or altered the more than two hundred human figures that appear on the doors. Some of his most famous works, like The ThinkerThe Three Shades, or The Kiss, were originally conceived as part of The Gates and were only later removed, enlarged, and cast as independent pieces.
Rodin’s initial inspiration came from Inferno (Italian for ‘hell’), the first part of Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s (1265–1324) epic poem The Divine Comedy. Rodin imagined the scenes described by Dante as a world with limitless space and a lack of gravitational pull. This allowed for ceaseless and radical experimentation by the artist, with figures that obey no rules in their poses, emotive gestures, or sexuality. For Rodin, the chaotic population on The Gates of Hell enjoyed only one final freedom—the ability to express their agony with complete abandon. In the end, the artist discarded the specific narratives of Dante’s poem, and today The Gates is no longer a methodical representation of Inferno. Instead, the figures on the doors poignantly and heart-renderingly evoke universal human emotions and experiences, such as forbidden love, punishment, and suffering, but they also suggest unapologetic sexuality, maternal love, and contemplation.”    —Rodin Museum