Divine Comedy

As a painter adhering to Romanticism, Gustave Doré excelled in the tormented atmospheres of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, both in the long and tainted darkness and in the dramatic sweetness of Paolo and Francesca’s love episode. Doré had the power to transform those lines into polymorphic symbolic images, as happened in the illustration and subsequent painting of the two lovers in flight, evoking several concepts in a single drawing. The step that precedes this symbolic “frame” sees Dante and Virgil in the circle of the Lustful. “They are the carnal sinners / who give reason to talent”, that is, those who do not use the brake of reason, in the face of the instinctual plane, but humiliate rational thought in favor of the domination of the senses. These, in Dante’s Comedy, whirl in the sky, carried away by a stormy wind. In the multitude, Dante sees two paired souls. He is curious about them, he calls them to find out who they are. They abandon the flock and, like doves hurrying to return to their nest – doves represent carnal love, not judicious, overwhelming feeling, unlike the stable love of turtledoves – they head towards Dante and Virgil. The painting, exhibited at the 1863 Paris Salon, was featured in the 2014 Christie’s Catalog.

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Detail of a Mycenaean Gold Inlaid Sword