Literature & Paintings

Art Meets Literature: The Fifth Circle of Hell (Dante’s Inferno) by Giovanni Stradano

The third circle, illustrated by Stradanus

“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 Divine Comedy and portrays nine circles of Hell. The narrator, together with Roman poet Virgil, explores them as the journey contemplates on recognition and rejection of sin.
In the fifth circle, Phlegyas (king of the Lapiths in Greek mythology) ferries Dante and Virgil across the swampy waters of the river Styx. It is where the wrathful and are punished and are condemned to fight each other on the surface of the damned river. Their punishment reflects their sin.

The fifth circle has been brilliantly captured by the Flanders-born mannerist artist Stradanus and it is one of his most well know works. Stradanus’ works include other paintings that were also inspired from Inferno.

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Literature & Paintings

Sophocles Revisited: The Plague of Thebes by Charles François Jalabert

the plague of thebes charles jalabert

The Plague of Thebes (oil on Canvas) by Charles François Jalabert (1819-1901) alludes to the Athenian Tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Plague strikes Thebes due to corruption caused by the murderer of Laius, the former king of the city. Oedipus, the current ruler, vows to put an end to this only to find out that he is the cause of the plague. He has killed his father, married his mother, and brought curse on his people.

Jalabert rose to fame in the latter half of the 19th century and attended the salon of Madame Sabatier. His other important works include Oedipus and Antigone, for which he won wide acclaim. Some selected paintings of Jalabert, including The Plague of Thebes, can be found in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes. Continue reading