Dante and Virgil move on towards a great contraption which looks from a distance a bit like a windmill. As they grow closer, they pass by shades of the dead frozen and stacked up.
Virgil then shows Dante the ruler of Hell, a huge giant frozen up to his chest. He has three faces: one looking forward is bright red, that on the right a dirty yellow, and on the left black. Behind each face is a pair of vane-like wings which are fanning the ice-cold wind blowing across Lake Cocytus.
His six eyes are weeping, and each mouth is chewing one of the souls from that pit of Hell. Virgil points out that one of them, whose legs protrude from Lucifer’s lips, is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. The other two are Brutus and Cassius, being punished for their assassination of Julius Caesar.
Virgil tells Dante that he has now seen the whole of Hell, and it’s time for them to leave. They make their way up some steps, through a fissure in the rock.
Where Dante expects to see the body of Lucifer again, he sees just his legs.
Virgil tells him they must move on quickly, now that the sun is rising. They walk through a cavern, along a path long and arduous. Eventually they emerge below the stars. With that, Dante’s account of his visit to Hell is complete.
William Blake (1757–1827) was a British visionary painter and illustrator whose last and incomplete work was an illustrated edition of the Divine Comedy for the painter John Linnell. Most of his works shown in this series were created for that, although he did draw and paint scenes during his earlier career. I have a major series on his work here.
Gustave Doré (1832–1883) was the leading French illustrator of the nineteenth century, whose paintings are still relatively unknown. Early in his career, he produced a complete set of seventy illustrations for translations of the Inferno, which were first published in 1857 and continue to be used. These were followed in 1867 by more illustrations for Purgatorio and Paradiso. This article looks at his paintings.
John Flaxman (1755–1826) was a British sculptor and draughtsman who occasionally painted too. When he was in Rome between 1787-91, he produced drawings for book illustrations, including a set of 111 for an edition of The Divine Comedy. In 1810, he was appointed the Professor of Sculpture to the Royal Academy in London, and in 1817 made drawings to illustrate Hesiod, which were engraved by William Blake.
Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839) was an Austrian landscape painter, who worked mainly in Neoclassical style. During his second stay in Rome, he was commissioned to paint frescos in the Villa Massimi on the walls of the Dante Room there, which remain one of the most florid visual accounts of Dante’s Inferno. He completed those between 1824-29. He also appears to have drawn a set of illustrations for Dante’s Inferno in about 1808.
Filippo Napoletano (1589–1629), whose real name was Filippo Teodoro di Liagno, was an Italian painter who worked in Naples, Florence and Rome, mainly painting dramatic landscapes. He was a court painter to the Medicis from around 1617, who also painted a nocturne of the burning of Troy.
Wilhelm Trübner (1851–1917) was a successful realist painter who was born in Heidelberg and worked almost entirely in Germany. In 1872, with Hans Thoma and others he formed a circle who admired the work of Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900). His peak is claimed to have occurred in the mid-1870s, and in 1901 he joined the Berlin Secession. During his later years he was a professor in Karlsruhe.
Robin Kirkpatrick (trans) (2012) Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, Penguin Classics. ISBN 978 0 141 19749 4.
Richard Lansing (ed) (2000) The Dante Encyclopedia, Routledge. ISBN 978 0 415 87611 7.
Guy P Raffa (2009) The Complete Danteworlds, A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy, Chicago UP. ISBN 978 0 2267 0270 4.
Prue Shaw (2014) Reading Dante, From Here to Eternity, Liveright. ISBN 978 1 63149 006 4.