Flaxman's Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy
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Flaxman's Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy

by John Flaxman
     
 

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Since its creation at the beginning of the fourteenth century, Dante's Divine Comedy—a masterpiece of European literature—has moved legendary artists such as William Blake and Gustave Doré to illustrate the famed poem. John Flaxman, English sculptor, draughtsman, and renowned Wedgwood designer, was no exception. Commissioned at the end

Overview


Since its creation at the beginning of the fourteenth century, Dante's Divine Comedy—a masterpiece of European literature—has moved legendary artists such as William Blake and Gustave Doré to illustrate the famed poem. John Flaxman, English sculptor, draughtsman, and renowned Wedgwood designer, was no exception. Commissioned at the end of the eighteenth century by famed art collector and author Thomas Hope, Flaxman's 110 illustrations of the Divine Comedy are known as his greatest achievement. Deceptively simple, awash in pathos, and recalling antique imagery in a classically Greek style, they themselves became an inspiration for such artists as Goya and Ingres, and were used as an academic source for nineteenth-century art students.
This magnificent edition of Flaxman's Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy includes the complete series of drawings created by Flaxman for all 99 cantos of the literary masterwork. A glorious collection of lively outlines that captures the very spirit of Dante's poem, it is an essential addition to the bookshelves of art, literature, and history enthusiasts. Captions are included from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation of the original text.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486455587
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
06/05/2007
Series:
Dover Books on Fine Art Series
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Flaxman's Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy


By John Flaxman

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15700-9



CHAPTER 1

Entering the Dark Wood


Canto I, lines 124–136

Because that Emperor, who reigns above,
In that I was rebellious to his law,
Wills that through me none come into his city.

He governs everywhere, and there he reigns;
There is his city and his lofty throne;
O happy he whom thereto he elects!"

And I to him: "Poet, I thee entreat,
By that same God whom thou didst never know,
So that I may escape this woe and worse,

Thou wouldst conduct me there where thou hast said,
That I may see the portal of Saint Peter,
And those thou makest so disconsolate."

Then he moved on, and I behind him followed.


Virgil and Beatrice Meeting

Canto II, lines 52–60

Among those was I who are in suspense,
And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
In such wise, I besought her to command me.

Her eyes were shining brighter than the Star;
And she began to say, gentle and low,
With voice angelical, in her own language:

'O spirit courteous of Mantua,
Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
And shall endure, long-lasting as the world'


Charon's Boat


Canto III, lines 109–120

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

As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off,
First one and then another, till the branch
Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;

In similar wise the evil seed of Adam
Throw themselves from that margin one by one,
At signals, as a bird unto its lure.

So they depart across the dusky wave,
And ere upon the other side they land,
Again on this side a new troop assembles.


Christ's Descent to Limbo


Canto IV, lines 46–54

Tell me, my Master, tell me, thou my Lord,"
Began I, with desire of being certain
Of that Faith which o'ercometh every error,

"Came any one by his own merit hence,
Or by another's, who was blessed thereafter?"
And he, who understood my covert speech,

Replied: "I was a novice in this state,
When I saw hither come a Mighty One,
With sign of victory incoronate."


The Lovers Surprised


Canto I; lines 127–136

One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.


The Lovers Punished


Canto V, lines 139–142

And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,

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


Cerberus


Canto VI, lines 13–18

Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.

Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.


The Region of Pluto


Canto VII, lines 1–6

Papë Satàn, Papë Satàn, Aleppë!"
Thus Plutus with his clucking voice began;
And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
Said, to encourage me: "Let not thy fear
Harm thee; for any power that he may have
Shall not prevent thy going down this crag."


The Pool of Envy


Canto VIII, lines 67–75

And the good Master said: "Even now, my Son,
The city draweth near whose name is Dis,
With the grave citizens, with the great throng."

And I: "Its mosques already, Master, clearly
Within there in the valley I discern
Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire

They were." And he to me: "The fire eternal
That kindles them within makes them look red,
As thou beholdest in this nether Hell."


The Furies


Canto IX, lines 43–48

And he who well the handmaids of the Queen
Of everlasting lamentation knew,
Said unto me: "Behold the fierce Erinnys.

This is Megæra, on the left-hand side;
She who is weeping on the right, Alecto;
Tisiphone is between;" and then was silent.


The Fiery Sepulchres


Canto X, lines 28–36

Upon a sudden issued forth this sound
From out one of the tombs; wherefore I pressed,
Fearing, a little nearer to my Leader.

And unto me he said: "Turn thee; what dost thou?
Behold there Farinata who has risen;
From the waist upwards wholly shalt thou see him."

I had already fixed mine eyes on his,
And he uprose erect with breast and front
E'en as if Hell he had in great despite.


Tomb of Anastasius


Canto XI, lines 1–9

Upon the margin of a lofty bank
Which great rocks broken in a circle made,
We came upon a still more cruel throng;

And there, by reason of the horrible
Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out,
We drew ourselves aside behind the cover

Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing,
Which said: "Pope Anastasius I hold,
Whom out of the right way Photinus drew."


Encounter with the Centaurs


Canto XII, lines 58–63

Beholding us descend, each one stood still,
And from the squadron three detached themselves,
With bows and arrows in advance selected;

And from afar one cried: "Unto what torment
Come ye, who down the hillside are descending?
Tell us from there; if not, I draw the bow."


Forest of Harpies


Canto XIII, lines 28—36

Therefore the Master said: "If thou break off
Some little spray from any of these trees,
The thoughts thou hast will wholly be made vain."

Then stretched I forth my hand a little forward,
And plucked a branchlet off from a great thorn;
And the trunk cried, "Why dost thou mangle me?"

After it had become embrowned with blood,
It recommenced its cry: "Why dost thou rend me?
Hast thou no spirit of pity whatsoever?"


The Statue of Four Metals


Canto XIV, lines 103-108

Agrand old man stands in the mount erect,
Who holds his shoulders turned tow'rds Damietta,
And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror.

His head is fashioned of refined gold,
And of pure silver are the arms and breast;
Then he is brass as far down as the fork.


Dante Discoursing with his Preceptor


Canto XV, lines 43–48

I did not dare to go down from the road
Level to walk with him; but my head bowed
I held as one who goeth reverently.

And he began: "What fortune or what fate
Before the last day leadeth thee down here?
And who is this that showeth thee the way?"


The Rain of Fire


Canto XVI, lines 22–27

As champions stripped and oiled are wont to do,
Watching for their advantage and their hold,
Before they come to blows and thrusts between them,

Thus, wheeling round, did every one his visage
Direct to me, so that in opposite wise
His neck and feet continual journey made.


Geryon


Canto XVII, lines 106–114

A greater fear I do not think there was
What time abandoned Phaeton the reins,
Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched;

Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks
Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax,
His father crying, "An ill way thou takest!"

Than was my own, when I perceived myself
On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished
The sight of everything but of the monster.


Malebolge


Canto XVIII, lines 103–114

Thence we heard people, who are making moan
In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
And with their palms beating upon themselves

The margins were incrusted with a mould
By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.

The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
To give us sight of it, without ascending
The arch's back, where most the crag impends.

Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
I saw a people smothered in a filth
That out of human privies seemed to flow.


The Gulf of Simony


Canto XIX, lines 40–48

Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived;
We turned, and on the left-hand side descended
Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
And the good Master yet from off his haunch
Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me
Of him who so lamented with his shanks.

"Whoe'er thou art, that standest upside down,
O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,"
To say began I, "if thou canst, speak out."


Tiresias

Canto XX, lines 40–45

Behold Tiresias, who his semblance changed,
When from a male a female he became,
His members being all of them transformed;

And afterwards was forced to strike once more
The two entangled serpents with his rod,
Ere he could have again his manly plumes.


Summit of Malebolge


Canto XXI, lines 25–37

Then I turned round, as one who is impatient
To see what it behoves him to escape,
And whom a sudden terror doth unman,

Who, while he looks, delays not his departure;
And I beheld behind us a black devil,
Running along upon the crag, approach.

Ah, how ferocious was he in his aspect!
And how he seemed to me in action ruthless,
With open wings and light upon his feet!

His shoulders, which sharp-pointed were and high,
A sinner did encumber with both haunches,
And he held clutched the sinews of the feet.


The Bridge


Canto XXI, lines 67–75

With the same fury, and the same uproar,
As dogs leap out upon a mendicant,
Who on a sudden begs, where'er he stops,

They issued from beneath the little bridge,
And turned against him all their grappling-irons;
But he cried out: "Be none of you malignant!

Before those hooks of yours lay hold of me,
Let one of you step forward, who may hear me,
And then take counsel as to grappling me."


The Lake of Pitch


Canto XXII, lines 28–36

So upon every side the sinners stood;
But ever as Barbariccia near them came,
Thus underneath the boiling they withdrew.

I saw, and still my heart doth shudder at it,
One waiting thus, even as it comes to pass
One frog remains, and down another dives;

And Graffiacan, who most confronted him,
Grappled him by his tresses smeared with pitch,
And drew him up, so that he seemed an otter.


Hypocrites


Canto XXIII, lines 52–60

Hardly the bed of the ravine below
His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
Right over us; but he was not afraid;

For the high Providence, which had ordained
To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
The power of thence departing took from all.

A painted people there below we found,
Who went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.


The Fiery Serpents


Canto XXIV; lines 91–99

Among this cruel and most dismal throng
People were running naked and affrighted.
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.

They had their hands with serpents bound behind them;
These riveted upon their reins the tail
And head, and were in front of them entwined.

And lo! at one who was upon our side
There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.


Cacus


Canto XXV, lines 17–24

And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out: "Where is, where is the scoffer?"

I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.

Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters.


The Flaming Gulph


Canto XXVI, lines 13–18

We went our way, and up along the stairs
The bourns had made us to descend before,
Remounted my Conductor and drew me.

And following the solitary path
Among the rocks and ridges of the crag,
The foot without the hand sped not at all.


The Contention for Guido de Montefeltro


Canto XXVII, lines 108–114

And said I: 'Father, since thou washest me
Of that sin into which I now must fall,
The promise long with the fulfillment short
Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.'

Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
For me; but one of the black Cherubim
Said to him: 'Take him not; do me no wrong;'


The Schismatics


Canto XXVIII, lines 118–123

I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
A trunk without a head walk in like manner
As walked the others of the mournful herd.

And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
And that upon us gazed and said: "O me!"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Flaxman's Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy by John Flaxman. Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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