42 astonishing Dante’s Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883) was a French artist, illustrator, and sculptor. In Italy, he gained endless fame because of his beautiful illustrations of Dante’s Divina Commedia. Born in Strasbourg, France, Doré became a prolific artist renowned for his intricate and imaginative works. Among his most celebrated achievements are his illustrations for Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, Divine Comedy (Commedia). Completed between 1858 and 1868, these illustrations gained Doré widespread recognition and continue to captivate audiences today.

Composed between 1308 and 1321, Divine Comedy is an allegorical poem depicting Dante’s fictional journey through the three realms of the afterlife: Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven). Each realm symbolizes different moral and spiritual states, with Inferno representing sin and its consequences.

Doré’s illustrations for Inferno stand out for their masterful use of line art, intricate details, and dramatic shading. They vividly depict the various landscapes and creatures Dante encounters, from the fiery depths of Hell to the chilling frozen lake of Cocytus. His artistic interpretations brought the poem’s characters and scenes to life, captivating readers with their visual intensity.

Beyond their technical proficiency, Doré’s illustrations imbued Inferno with additional layers of meaning. His choices in composition, symbolism, and character portrayal offered visual interpretations of the poem’s complex themes, such as sin, punishment, redemption, and the human condition.

The Divine Comedy has been a source of inspiration for many artists for centuries. The complete set of Doré’s illustrations for Divine Comedy included 135 images, with 99 dedicated to Inferno. His illustrations were originally published in woodcuts, a printing technique utilizing carved wooden blocks. Doré’s work on Divine Comedy is considered a major contribution to Romanticism, an artistic movement emphasizing emotion, imagination, and individuality.

Doré’s influence extended beyond Divine Comedy. He illustrated numerous other literary classics, including works by Cervantes, Milton, and Coleridge. His illustrations for Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are particularly notable. These works further established his reputation as a leading illustrator of his time.

In addition to his illustrations, Doré was also a sculptor. One of his significant sculptures is the monumental “Triumph of Christianity” located in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris. Despite his success, Doré’s life was not without struggle. He faced financial difficulties and critical disdain from some contemporary art critics who viewed his prolific output with skepticism.

Gustave Doré died on January 23, 1883, in Paris.

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Illustrations of Dante’s Inferno with corresponding verse

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

And lo! almost where the ascent began,
A panther light and swift exceedingly,
Which with a spotted skin was covered over

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Dante meets Roman Poet Virgil

Behold the beast, for which I have turned back;
Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Then he moved on,
and I behind him followed.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Day was departing.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The gate of Hell
Abandon all hope ye who enter here

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Charon
And, lo! toward us in a bark,
Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld,
Crying, “Woe to you, wicked spirits!”

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Charon herds the sinners onto his boat
Charon the demon, with eyes of glede,
Beckoning to them, collects them all together,
Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Virtuous pagans
Lost are we and only so far punished,
That without hope we live on in desire.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Dante is accepted as an equal by the great Greek and Roman poets
Thus I beheld assemble the fair school
Of that lord of the song pre-eminent,
Who o’er the others like an eagle soars.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Minos judges the sinners.
There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
Examins the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according to he girds them.
[Each time his tail wraps round the sinner represents one circle further down]

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The hurricane of souls
The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onwards in its rapine

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XV. Dante is interested in why two souls within the hurricane are treated much more gently than all others:
Francesca da Rimini

O Poet, willingly,
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind so light.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Francesca da Rimini
Love has conducted us unto one death;

Caina waiteth him who quenched our life

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Francesca da Rimini
That day no further we read within
[Francesca di Rimini had an affair with her brother-in-law and both were murdered by her husband.]

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

I swooned away as if I had been dying,
And fell, even as a dead body falls.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Not all the gold that is beneath the moon,
Or even hath been, or there toil-worn souls,
Might purchase rest for one.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Severed Head of Bertrand de Born speaks

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXXI

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXXI

Titans and other giants are imprisoned in Hell

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXII

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Count Ugolino gnawing the Head of Ruggieri.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXVIII
Virgil shows Dante the Shade of Thaïs

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXXIV – Lucifer, King of Hell

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Megaera, Tisipone, and Alecto

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Thieves tortured by Serpents

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Ciampolo escaping from the Demon Alichino

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Minotaur on the Shattered Cliff

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Flaming Spirits of the evil Counsellors

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Call thou to mind
Piero of Medicina, if again
Returning, thou behold’st the pleasant land
That from Vercelli slopes to Mercabó.

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Canto XXIX
Virgil reproves Dante’s Curiosity

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Hypocrites address Dante

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Dante addresses Pope Nicholas III

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Harpies in the Forest of Suicides

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

Mutilated Shades of Mahomet

Dante's Inferno illustrations by Gustave Doré

The Descent of the Abyss on Geryon’s Back

Translation by Henry W. Longfellow, , Published by Arcturus Books, 2007.
Images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Last Updated on 2024/05/18

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