As a young man I lived in Rome. I learned Italian as one would —being before the time that speaking English was self-evident— and immersed myself in the glories of Rome: baroque architecture, ancient marbles, Carolingian mozaics, etc. But the thing that has endured with me the most is the language, and in particular various cantos from the Divine Comedy of Dante which I’d committed to memory.
By now this particular exploit —rattling on in medieval Italian for more than an hour— isn’t really good for much more than a party trick at a rather boring party, but the content has made a deep impression on me, and has secretly informed a surprising amount of what I do. As something of an homage to this phase in my life and to my admiration of this astounding poetical feat, I’ve started illustrating the Inferno in round ornamented paper-cuts, using radial symmetry as a motif much like the paper snowflakes we would cut as children. These “rosettes” will form a series, but of how many we will have to wait and see.
In this post you see two cantos: Canto III and Canto IV. In Canto III Dante enters through the famous portal of Hell after which he promptly sees the dolorous, uncommitted souls scorned by both Heaven and Hell. He is then accompanied by Virgil across the River Acheron by scowling Charon. In Canto IV Dante awakes on the far shore and proceeds with Virgil into the First Circle to meet the great poets and the virtuous pagans in Limbo. Virgil tells of the harrowing of the righteous by Christ.
Each piece is cut once by hand, but I’ve also digitized them and I am offering them now to the connoisseur as machine cut and framed wall-art. Contact me if you are interested.