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The Divine Comedy: Inferno 14 From treachery to cannibalism
After meeting some political traitors, Dante and Virgil come across Count Ugolino, who is gnawing the back of the head of Archbishop Ruggieri as a dog chews a bone. Their story is one of the most horrific and famous in the whole of the Divine Comedy. Ugolino raises his... Read more
King Arthur’s women: 2 Queen Guinevere
If Morgan le Fay is a wicked witch for much of Arthurian legend, and only comes good as Arthur lies dying, Queen Guinevere turns out to be unfaithful, and is almost burned at the stake, a punishment normally reserved for witches. Morgan had a following in Italy, as Fata... Read more
King Arthur’s women: 1 Morgan le Fay
Rich and compelling though the Arthurian legends are, they are also a bit of a nightmare in terms of narrative, as are their paintings. There are so many stories, each of which comes in different variants, that it can be hard to know which version is the source for... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 13 Treachery
After Dante and Virgil hear the story of an alchemist who claimed to be able to transform base metals into gold, Dante mentions examples of those who have fallen victim to sudden changes of fate, in Thebes and Troy. But none compares to two of the spirits who sink... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 12 The fraudulent
After talking with the notorious thief Vanni Fucci, who becomes pinned down by snakes, Dante and Virgil move on and meet a centaur, identified by Virgil as Cacus, who had been killed by Hercules. Dante’s classical reference here is a little odd in that he gives an account of... Read more
A Terrifying Beauty: Medusa 2
In yesterday’s first of this pair of articles, I looked at paintings of the terrifying Medusa. This concluding article follows the story of her life, or rather the end of her life at the hands of Perseus. Perseus was the heroic son of Jupiter and Danaë, conceived when the... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 11 Barrators, hypocrites and thieves
When a group of devils armed with long hooks threatens Dante, Virgil hurries him on towards the next rottenpocket in Hell. They work their way around some of the damage wrought by Christ’s harrowing of Hell following his crucifixion. With those devils keeping company, they then reach a pit... Read more
Corydon: 1 Stories of shepherds
However pastoral the landscape looks, life for the shepherd (and shepherdess) is seldom as peaceful as it’s made out to be. This weekend’s two articles look at the depiction of shepherds and shepherdesses in paintings. I start with their role in stories. Ever since the domestication of the sheep... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 10 Pimps, soothsayers, the corrupt
In their descent into the depths of Hell, Virgil and Dante have just entered circle eight, which is for those who committed fraud in its broadest sense. This consists of what Dante refers to as malebolge, best translated as rottenpockets, a series of ten deep trenches each of which... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 9 Blasphemy, sodomy, usury
From their tragic encounter with tormented souls in the Suicide Wood, Virgil leads Dante onto a barren and sandy plain, where groups of spirits are in different postures, naked under steady showers of flakes of fire. These fall on their flesh, and set the sand afire underneath them. These... Read more