Giovanni Stradano, “The Fifth Circle of Hell”, 1587, Etching, Illustration for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”
Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people
― Dante Alighieri, The Inferno
“Inferno” is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s long narrative poem, “The Divine Comedy”, a work which he began in 1308 and completed in 1320, one year before his death. Composed of over fourteen-thousand lines, the work is divided into three cantiche: the first of which is “Inferno”, followed by “Purgatory”, and lastly by “Paradise”.
“Inferno” describes the nine circles of Hell, which Dante and his companion, the Roman poet Virgil, explore on their jouney to contemplate the recognition and rejection of sin. In the fifth circle of Hell, Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths in Greek mythology, ferries Dante and Virgil across the swampy waters of the river Styx, which is the site of punishment for the wrathful. There the wrathful are punished and condemned to fight each other on the river’s surface.
Considered one of his best known works, The illustration of them fifth circle was brilliantly captured by the Flanders-born Mannerist artist Giovanni Stradanus. Many of his other works, both etchings and paintings, depicted other scenes from Dante’s “Inferno”.