August 26, 2013

Dan Brown's Inferno: The Art

Dan Brown's latest bestseller, Inferno, centres on the writings of 14th century Florentine poet Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy details the journey of the departed as they descend through the various levels of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, and the images conjured by Dante influenced artists for centuries to follow.

Portrait of Dante, Botticelli

Inferno is therefore filled with references to some of the greatest examples of Western art, many dating back to the Middle Ages. Some works were created by notable Renaissance artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Sandro Botticelli.

Annunciation, Da Vinci

And a great deal of the art illustrates the horrors of Hell (the Inferno).

The Gates of Hell, Doré

The Abyss of Hell, Botticelli

The Divine Comedy inspired a series of drawings by Botticelli, but his most famous works are the paintings Primavera and The Birth of Venus, which both reside in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Primavera, Botticelli

The Birth of Venus, Botticelli

Botticelli's talent is still appreciated today, as evidenced by this chalk drawing on a sidewalk near London's National Gallery.

Street Art, London

The walls and ceilings of historic buildings across Italy are adorned with large frescoes and mosaics. The Last Judgement was a popular theme for Renaissance artists and Michelangelo painted his version on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican.

The Last Judgement, Michelangelo

When I toured the Sistine Chapel, Vatican staff admonished visitors with calls for silence and no photo. So I settled for photos of the information board in the Pigna Courtyard.

Vatican Museum

The Pigna Courtyard, The Vatican Museum

Information Panel on The Last Judgement

Nearby in St. Peter's Basilica is yet another masterpiece by Michelangelo, the Pietà. The sculpture is now protected behind a bullet-proof panel following an attack with a hammer in 1972.

Pietà, Michelangelo

Giorgio Vasari frescoed The Last Judgement inside the cupola of the Duomo, or cathedral, in Florence. The red dome has become a symbol of the city now known as the Cradle of the Renaissance.

The Duomo, Florence

The Last Judgement, Vasari

Across from the cathedral entrance is the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The bronze doors on the east side of the baptistery were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and described by Michelangelo as The Gates of Paradise.

The Gates of Paradise, Ghiberti
Baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence

Isaac with Esau and Jacob

Adam and Eve (left), Cain and Abel (right)

In the novel Inferno, Robert Langdon follows a trail of clues through the great Italian cities of Florence and Venice and encounters, or makes reference to, many more outstanding pieces of art. Florence is closely associated with another masterpiece by Michelangelo, his statue of David. The original sculpture stands in a protective alcove in the Accademia Gallery.

David, Michelangelo
Accademia Gallery, Florence

A copy of the sculpture now stands in its original location next to the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria.

Copy of David
Piazza della Signoria, Florence

Michelangelo is buried in Florence at Santa Croce Church. His tomb was designed by Vasari, who was also responsible for many of the paintings in the Palazzo Vecchio.

Michelangelo's Tomb
Santa Croce, Florence

A number of sculptures are displayed on Piazza della Signoria, such as Hercules and  Cacus in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and Perseus with the Head of Medusa in the Loggia dei Lanzi.

Hercules and Cacus (left)
Perseus with the Head of Medusa (centre)

In Venice, Langdon seeks information on a Doge by the name of Dandolo, who is depicted in this 19th century engraving by Gustave Doré.

Dandolo, Doge of Venice, Preaching the Crusade, Doré

French sculptor Auguste Rodin spent many years working on The Gates of Hell.

The Gates of Hell, Rodin

Two components of the work evolved into much larger sculptures, The Thinker and The Three Shades. These bronzes can be viewed in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris.

Three Three Shades, Rodin

The Thinker, Rodin
Musée Rodin, Paris

Gardens of the Musée Rodin

One of Langdon's favourite pieces of art is by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, The Kiss. This painting was completed during Klimt's 'Golden Phase' and incorporates the use of gold leaf.

The Kiss, Klimt

To view more of the art featured in the novel, I've created a Google Art Project User Gallery Art in Dan Brown's Inferno with pieces contributed by the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio. The project's zoom tool allows you to read the letters 'CERCA TROVA' on Vasari's fresco The Battle of Marciano, or pinpoint the eyeballs of Saint Lucia carried on a platter. Follow this link to my gallery on the Google Art Project website.

Related Posts:

Dan Brown's Inferno: Florence in Photos
Dan Brown's Inferno: More Florence in Photos
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Dan Brown's Inferno: Venice in Photos
Dan Brown's Inferno: More Venice in Photos

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