Elisabeth Tonnard, “In This Dark Wood” (2008)

elisabeth-tonnard-in-this-dark-wood-2008
“This book is a modern gothic. It pairs images of people walking alone in nighttime city streets with 90 different English translations I collected of the first lines of Dante’s Inferno. The images, showing a crowd of solitary figures, are selected from the same archive as used for Two of Us (the extraordinary Joseph Selle collection at the Visual Studies Workshop which contains over a million negatives from a company of street photographers working in San Francisco from the 40’s to the 70’s).
The book is set up in a repetitious way, to stress a sense of similarity, endlessness and interchangeability. The images are re-expressions of each other, and so are the texts.”    —Elisabeth Tonnard

Contributed by Guy Raffa (University of Texas – Austin)

Remembering Michael Mazur’s Illustrations of the Inferno

michael-mazur-dies-at-73“Michael Mazur, a relentlessly inventive printmaker, painter and sculptor whose work encompassed social documentation, narrative and landscape while moving back and forth between figuration and abstraction, died on Aug. 18 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 73 and lived in Cambridge and Provincetown, Mass. [. . .]

“While attending Amherst College he studied with the printmaker and sculptor Leonard Baskin, who was teaching at Smith College. After taking a year off to study in Italy, where his lifelong fascination with Dante began, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1957 and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art from the Yale School of Art and Architecture. [. . .]

michael-mazur-dies-at-73“After seeing an exhibition of Degas monotypes at the Fogg Museum in 1968, he began exploring that medium, most notably in the monumental Wakeby landscapes of 1983, depicting Wakeby Lake on Cape Cod, and in a series of illustrations for Robert Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, published in 1994.” [. . .]    –William Grimes, The New York Times, August 29, 2009

Contributed by Richard Lindemann (2006)

See also the 2020 exhibit of Mazur’s work at the Albert Merola Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Mezzo Cammin” (1842) and “Divina Commedia” (1867)

henry-wadsworth-longfellow-mezzo-cammin-1842-and-divina-commedia-1867The title, “Mezzo Cammin,” takes its name from the first line of the Inferno. Longfellow, the first American to translate Dante’s Commedia into English, “was 35 when he wrote this poem, halfway through the scriptural lifespan of 70 years.”
Additionally, Longfellow wrote six sonnets, entitled “Divina Commedia,” which were composed during the grief-filled aftermath of his second wife’s death.
“The six sonnets. . .were written during the progress of Mr. Longfellow’s work in translating the Commedia, and were published as poetical fly-leaves to the three parts. The first was written just after he had put the first two cantos of the Inferno into the hands of the printer. This, with the second, prefaced the Inferno. The third and fourth introduced the Purgatorio, and the fifth and sixth the Paradiso.”    —Representative Poetry Online (retrieved on July 7, 2009)

“Paradise Lost: Why Doesn’t Anyone Read Dante’s Paradise”

robert-p-baird-paradise-lost-why-doesnt-anyone-read-dantes-paradise“Dante’s Paradiso is the least read and least admired part of his Divine Comedy. The Inferno‘s nine circles of extravagant tortures have long captured the popular imagination, while Purgatorio is often the connoisseur’s choice. But as Robert Hollander writes in his new edition of the Paradiso, ‘One finds few who will claim (or admit) that it is their favorite cantica.’ (A cantica, or canticle, is one of the three titled parts of the poem.) The time is ripe to reconsider Paradiso‘s neglect, however, since three major new translations of the poem we know as the Divine Comedy are coming to completion. (Dante simply called it his Comedy; in what was perhaps the founding instance of publishing hype, divine was added by a Venetian printer in 1555.) Hollander’s edition, produced with his wife, Jean, was published this summer, and two more are due out next year: one by Robin Kirkpatrick and the other—the one I’m holding out for—by Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez.” [. . .]    –Robert P. Baird, Slate, December 24, 2007

Sandow Birk’s Illustrations of the “Divine Comedy”

sandow-birk-illustrations-to-the-divine-comedy

“A five year project which involved adapting the text of the entire “Divine Comedy” into contemporary slang and setting the action in contemporary urban America. The project resulted in three, limited edition books, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Each book contained more than 60 original lithographs and was published by Trillium Press in San Francisco.”    —Sandow Birk

See also: Sandow Birk’s film “Dante’s Inferno” (2007)

Janet Van Fleet, Sculptures for “A Guided Tour of Dante’s Inferno”

janet-van-fleet-inferno-sculptures-ugolino-and-ruggieri   janet-van-fleet-inferno-sculptures-minotaur

“The Inferno of Dante Alighieri,” a rhymed translation by Seth Zimmerman with illustrations by Janet Van Fleet

Learn more at Inferno Dante and see the book on Amazon.