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Dante: Give up all hope March 30, 2008

Posted by anagasto in art, Bible, drawing, painting, poetry.
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dali on dante river of death

Dante was the poet of the Humanists. The term is about 500 years old and has been gathering various meanings. Basically the idea is to put Man rather than God or Nature at the center of philosophical research.

Dante’s poem is called “The Divine Comedy” and it opens on the evening of Good Friday in the year 1300.
It tells the story of his trip through Hell and through the purgatory. In the end he reaches Heaven and meets his love, Beatrice.

Beware of the term “comedy”. All words mutate in time and space, but this one changed radically. A comedy in Dante’s time was just any play that ends well, but not necessarily funny!

>> >> Versión en español → → Dante: Dejad toda esperanza

The watercolour painting is by Dalí and shows Charon the Greek ferryman taking the souls across the river of Death.

In Michelangelo’s time, everybody read Dante.  Greek mythology and Biblical thinking got mixed up even in the Church, and the pope did not object to the idea that the souls travel to hell across a Greek river.

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There are great, practically unknown illustrations by Dalí at http://www.rogallery.com/Dali_Salvador/dali-portal.html:

Here is a sinner who is going to be torn to pieces.

Dalí’s illustrations are mostly woodcuts. See the Modern Art Museum info pages about printing techniques http://www.moma.org/interactives/projects/2001/whatisaprint/flash.html

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In the  past, a bestseller could last hundreds of years. Educated men knew the Psalms by heart. Even private letters were filled with quotes and allusions to Dante. People saw what those great Seers had described, and it became part of everyone’s inner configuration :

This is the door to the city of eternal sorrow.
Give up all hope, you who go in:
lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.

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boticelli dante hell

The drawing  by Botticelli  shows the souls entering Hell.

It looks like a spiral arrangement. Maybe the souls get sucked into hell as into a tornado.

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dante-infierno.jpg
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There is a solemn warning on the gates of hell. It says that before you go on, you must give up all hope.
Hell is an abyss of eternal hopelessness that reaches right down to the center of the Earth.

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This picture is in public domain according to http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soubor:Botticelli_ChartOfDantesHell.jpg

It is the chart of hell. There are nine concentric circles each prepared with different tortures for different kind of sinners.

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Below, Dante and his companion are visiting the tombs of those who did not believe in God, nor in an immortal soul.

There are flames and smoke coming out from under the stone lids and some people are still trying to get out. In each tomb there is a collection of sinners, though on the left you see a stone plate marked specially for a heretic pope.

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Added October 19, 2008

scoop21

Woody Allen’s ferryman on the River of Death in “Scoop”.

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Now,  hell would be more  the way it was painted by Bruegel in

bruegel-fragment-death1

“The Triumph of Death” at Madrid’s Prado Museum. You see that the picture above is a fragment of the one below.

Brugel often paints beautiful landscapes full of problematic people, and sometimes it is as if in his view the Earth would have been better off without humans.

The dead are advancing in  military formation against the living.

bruegel-triumph-of-death

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Best known are Doré’s woodcuts : Dante meets a leopard.

Dante facing the leopard

The leopard is a symbol of wantonness. The drawing is by Gustave Doré.

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Gustave_Doré_-_charon arriving

Charon arrives to take the souls  across the river of Death to the Underworld, also by Doré.

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gustave doré cerberus

Cerberus is the dog that watches out at the gates of the Underworld. He has three heads.

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And below is  Botticelli’s great drawing of Satan:

Satan by Botticelli

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But the most aweful drawings are by the poet William Blake.

This is Hell reserved for the thieves. An ugly snake goes after them:

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…. and Hell designed special for  fortune tellers:

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and Blake’s great drawing of the Last Judgment with people meeting their former friends or enemies in heaven or in hell, a hundred minute naked figures :

Those three last pictures are all from the same source, a large data base on Dante with pictures by Botticelli, Blake, and Doré at ……

August 1, 2011:  this link no longer works: http://iws.ccccd.edu/Andrade/WorldLitI2332/Dante/bbgallery.html

Below is Hell, the fifth circle, where  angry and moody people were punished. They have trouble staying afloat in the river and tear each other up.

The painting by William Blake is in public domain.

Next is Hell, the 12th circle where evil people are being boiled in a river of blood. There is also a centaur watching over them to prevent them from getting out.

The painting by William Blake is in public domain according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blake_Dante_Hell_XII.jpg

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Location_Italy_EU_Europe

At the time in Florence and all over Europe the civil authorities had begun to rebel against the omnipresent Catholic Church. Dante sided with the civil powers and was exiled for life.

Dante wrote the poem in his exile. It was going to be  the greatest poem since Homer, even though in his vision of Hell there is every kind of torture to punish his enemies, including the Pope.

Dante and his guide cross the many concentric circles of Hell, and the guide explains their meaning.

Famous quotes:

As Dante and his guide arrive in hell, they are received by incredible noise :

“Babbling tongues, terrible palaver,
Words of grief, inflections of deep anger”

Dante wants to know what all that yelling is about. His guide tells him that the cacophony is from the souls of those who never took sides. They now belong to the crowd of damned angels who did not rebel against God, but did not serve Him either.

And the guide ends his explanations saying:

“Let’s not reason about them; just have a look and go on” : “Non
ragioniam di lor, ma guarda y passa.”

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The painting of Satanas below is by Giotto. It is the front wall of a chapel in Italy.

Giotto's_Satan_in_the_Last_Judgment
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This is part of a large painting called The Last Judgment. Satan is at the bottom left. All around him are  sinners  getting tortured. Compared to Satan, they are minute like dolls, and Satan eats them up.


In public domain https://espliego.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/giotto-last-judgment-scene-cappella-scrovegni-a-padova.jpg

It is a fresco painting: water colours on a fresh lime and sand mix.

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hell sinners cauldron

The sinners are in chains.  The sinners are  very important people: a king, a bishop, an abbot, and two rich ladies.They are all  being led to the cauldron. The sculpture is from a gate of the cathedral in Reims, France, explained and illustrated at http://www.paradoxplace.com/

Now, a few centuries later, the terrors of hell have inspired funny cartoons. There was one of a little devil looking out from under the cover of a manhole into a polluted city, and beside the manhole there was a sign saying: “Give up all hope, you who get out.”

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Gary Olsen_kid with cell phone22

For a detailed Dante summary see http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.

A complete translation is free at http://www.italianstudies.org/comedy/Inferno3.htm.

The drawing of the kid with his cell phone is by Gary Olsen at  http://www.dubuque.k12.ia.us/cartoons

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Dante is also the name of a  trend setter in video games. He has a  child’s serious face and lots of story book clothes:

Dante_dmc4 …..

Dante video game

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Comments»

1. Canadian Investor Within - March 30, 2008

Even today for myself, I find Dante more entertaining than TV, very powerful.

I really like the painting too
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2. 100swallows - March 30, 2008

I had never seen this watercolor by Dalí and I think it is wonderful. The Styx looks more like a lake and grim Charon like an angel; but the mood is right.
I’d say that drawing of the souls lining up to get into Hell is NOT by Botticelli.
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To 100swallows:

I looked around and found that there are some 100 drawings by Botticelli for this Dante., and there was something about “designs for the engravings”. Do you mean that the present drawing was made by an engraver according to a Botticelli drawing?

3. Nimish Batra - March 30, 2008

Been having a weird day – gave up hope it’d turn out well after 4 pm.

Still it might. There’s 2 hours till the day officially ends.

4. 100swallows - March 31, 2008

I meant that those little figures don’t have the quality that I see in the famous Botticelli pen-and-ink illustrations. They must be the engraver’s not-very-faithful copy of an original Botticelli drawing–or an imitation.

5. -30- - April 2, 2008

I learned the sign at the gates of Hell read “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” It’s a different English translation and I don’t recall where it came from, but to my ear, it sounds more poetic.
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But it is archaic! And even Shakespeare does not sound as archaic as those 19th century translators who probably imitated a style that sounded poetic to them.
And Dante was one of the first to write in Italian. In modern terms, that is like writing in a dialect.

6. 223remote - April 14, 2009

Why would hell “now” be more like Bruegel’s?

7. septembersky - July 27, 2009

I like this post.

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