Have you ever wondered who inspired Italian artists to be the great artists that we know and love today? Or have you ever wondered why artists picked up the skills of the artists before them? Knowing the true inspiration behind an artist and their work of art can only be seen by looking at the work that the artist presents. However one artist who inspired many artists around the world, is Dante Alghieri.

This Italian poet seemed to inspire artists with his poem La Commedia, by representing someone who went from being in darkness to light. This poem can be true to artists, because in the beginning they are trying to find their voice in the beginning, so others can see their light and what inspires them, which is the darkness in the beginning. After working on their craft and becoming better, than it shows how the artist has found their light, which is why La Commedia or the Divine Comedy, is what represents the artist the most.

There are artists around the world who has been inspired by Dante and they have shown it in their work on their path to finding the light in their life.

Sandro Botticelli

With Dante’s Divine Comedy being published in 1481, Botticelli, illustrated The Divine Comedy for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco between 1490 and 1496.

Being faithful to Dante’s work, Botticelli drew a detailed map of the underworld. Botticelli shaped the idea of hell like a funnel or a cone, which degrades nine circles to the center of the Earth, where Lucifer is.

Botticelli was also inspired by Dante so much that he exemplified a portrait of him 1495, that is still very famous today.

‘Inferno XVIII’; Virgil and Dante in the eighth circle of Hell, showing the punishment of panderers, seducers, flatterers, and whores; illustration by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1490

Stradanus ( Giovanni Stradano)

A Flemish painter, Stradanus, lived in Florence and was commissioned to paint a series of scenes in 1587 of the damned in various circles of hell along with a series of illustrations and maps.
Although Stradanus was among the leaders of Italian Mannerism, he did not forget his Flemish origin and he brought the two cultural components together when he created the illustration from the Divine Comedy.

Stradanus called his work Canto 8 and in his work, the wrathful and slothful are punished. In his work of art, Dante and Virgil are also in it crossing the river Styx with Phlegyas being the ferryman.

William Blake

William Blake was commissioned to do 102 drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy in 1825, but after his death, they were found in various stages of completion. Blake paid close attention to the detail in Dante’s poem and focused on sin, guilt, punishment, revenge and salvation.

Along with Blake focusing on how Dante may have envisioned his visual on hell, William Blake brought his own views of what he though the underworld may have looked like and how it related to Dante’s vision. Although Blake did seem to have some critical attitude toward Dante, he also showed sympathy towards him.

Over the years, artists have taken on the task to try to understand what Dante’s vision of hell was in his writing.

While some focused on including Dante in their work of art, others focused on the wrath being given to man by the demons and Lucifer in hell.
With the work changing into what artists seeing what hell may be like, their inspiration of Dante’s Divine Comedy has proven to be complex, yet beautiful.

Illustrations to Dante Divine Comedy Lucifer