Dante's Inferno Art
Text from “Inferno” the first part of Dante’s La Commedia Divina
The Dante works [19 in all] began with the invasion of Iraq. After almost 50 years my suppressed memories of an invasion surfaced [I was a SeaBee following the Marines in the Invasion of Guam during WWII and part of my outfit were at Iwo Jima].
The recall and imaging of Dante's visions of Hell purged my psyche. I had studied the work in an Italian writing and reading course that I took when I returned to Yale from my Fulbright year in Italy. In Florence every other street has a plaque commemorating some event in Dante's life or works. I also had discovered a new translation of the Inferno by Michael DiPalma, a masterful translation which retains Dante's cadence and rhyming scheme.
I also chose to work in techniques that would have been available to Dante's contemporary artists. Drawing on toned paper, sgrafitto [scratchboard] and acrylic used as tempera or secco fresco.
I have always shown the work in a particular sequence that is set by Dante's order of each canto in the Inferno, the first set of 32 stanzas for this three part poem. The artist's price for this collection is negotiable.
Illustrations from “Inferno” the first part of “the Comedy” they called “Divine” By Dante Alighieri, exiled Florentine Poet
The designs are hand-drawn in Sgrafitto, to be made into line etchings.
Artist Designer, E. Thor Carlson © 2003,
Newport, New Hampshire, United States
Virgil is shown with images of the Roman Forum and the statue of Caesar Augustus. In his hand he holds a scroll with his epitaph in Latin, which he wrote himself.
Translation of the Latin on Virgil's scroll:
"Mantua gave me birth, Calabria snatched me away, now Pathanope holds me: I sang of the pastures, the green fields and of the heroes."
Gate of Hell
The Door to Gloomy Hell is Always Open
Before Me Nothing was Created save the Eternal, and I endure Eternally. ALL YOU WHO ENTER, LET NO HOPE SURVIVE
The Weird and Savage Cerberus
His Three Throats barking Doglike at the Dead
The wormlike Cerberus saw us and at once bared the fangs of his three mouths, never ceasing to move.
The Dark Dark Wood
A Dark and Savage Wood [una selva oscura e selvaggia.]
Where he meets first a leopard, then a lion, then a salivating she-wolf and finally as a figure of a man seems to emerge from the darkness he cries "Miser¡re are you a man or a spirit” and he replied: “I was a man.”
Charon's Boat Crosses the Acheron
Charon, the Ferryman, on the Fiery River Acheron [caron, il traghettore su la trista riviera d’archeronte]
Amid the wailing of the condemned souls at the river of fire’s edge a boat emerged and an old man whose eyes glowed like coals. He shouted: “Oh sinners! Put all hope of Heaven by! I take you to the other shore where darkness cannot die!”
King Minos and the Adulterers
King Minos of the second circle [Re Minos del cerchio secondo]
There Minos stands with his horrid snarling face, He assigns each one it’s place! Behind him swirled the adulterous lovers, condemned to endless winds and in perpetual embrace around and around they flew.
The Everlasting Fire
The Perpetual Fires [I fuochi perpetui]
I saw naked souls bewailing their miseries. Some lay stretched on the ground, some crouched and squatted and others went meandering around. Here were the usurers, the deviates, and the worst of humanities sinners.
The Forest of Dry Trees
The Wood of the Suicides [La Selva delle suicide]
Within the dry wood I tugged at a branch until it snapped apart. “Why are you mangling me?” As I saw dark red blood start to run, the voice continued “Now we are turned to stumps, but we were men!”
Dante and Virgil
The Four Muses - Mary, Lucy, Rachel and Beatrice
Oh Muses, O High Genius, Aid Me!
In Heaven a Noble Lady, and Lucia Enemy of All Cruelty, and Ancient Rachel Saying to Beatrice “Why do you not help him who loved you so that he forsook the crowd and it’s crass ways? Do you not hear him crying out below?
The Misers Carry Their Gold Round and Round
“Why throw it away?” they cried.
And the somber circle moved till their previous positions were reversed they each wheeled and rolled their weights along.
The Stygian Marsh of the Angry
In that filthy bath was a crowd of muddy people, filling it,
all naked, with faces full of wrath.
They hit each other with their fists, and hit each other with both feet and chest and head, and chewed each other to pieces, bit by bit.
The Screaming Harpies
The Three Infernal Furies
Three hellish furies, resembled women,
But they were blood smeared and girded
With horned vipers of the deepest Green.
With small snakes for hair
Handmaids of the Queen of Eternal Lamentation.
Satan The Lord Of Hell
Behold Satan, The Emperor of that Realm of Misery [ecco dite, lo emperador del doloroso regno]
I stared to see three faces on his head, the middle one faced forward, the other two were joined to it and set above each shoulder and they went up to his crown, where all three met. He stood in a sea of icy water where bodies floated and his body was covered with shaggy and bloody hair.