Sunday, January 6, 2013

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Gustave Dore's illustration of Dante questioning the damned frozen in Lake Cocytus

Last year, we celebrated the birth date of Gustave Dore by looking at his biblical illustrations. Since today is Spooky Sunday, it seems only proper that we look at some of Dore's most haunting works, the images created for Dante's Inferno.

There are plenty of gruesome scenes to select, but my favorites are with Francesca and the Lustful being carrying aloft forever upon a tireless, swirling wind, and with Farinata who pridefully argues among the Heretical in their smoldering sarcophagi, and, of course, upon seeing the frozen bottom layer with the Treacherous trapped in the ice of Lake Cocytus, formed from the endless tears of Satan himself!!! Yeah, there are other horrific situations, loathsome and insidious. But these are my three iconic vistas of Perdition.

Other artists have tried their hand at drawing nightmarish visions from Dante's text, sometimes with great success. However, in terms of breadth and consistency, nobody beats Dore in envisioning the words. He makes Hell take shape.

Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, tossed endlessly by the gusts of Lust

Personally, I've never been a Dante enthusiast, but looking at Dore's work makes me want to give the Divine Comedy another read, especially Paradiso, which I have only read once, back in my college years, when I thought it was so boring as to make my eyes blur with tedium. Yeah, I hate rereading works, but sometimes our perspectives become so changed as to make the text relate to us anew.

The Inferno has never been a tough read. There is something titillating about the various tales of sin and villainy. Moreover, I find it easier to relate to the sinners of both Inferno and Purgatorio than the paragons of Paradiso.

Among the Heretics, Farinata degli Uberti argues with Dante from his flaming sarcophagus.

Let's look at some videos:

Dore's Illustrations for Dante's Inferno

"Cocytus" from the Dante's Inferno video game soundtrack

The Sixth Circle of Hell as depicted in the Dante's Inferno video game


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