An engraving of Dante’s encounter with Lucifer/Satan at the end of the Inferno. Illustrators of Dante have given us a number of depictions of Dante’s fallen angel—a monstrous beast with multiple wings and three heads; icy blasts from the wings travel through the circles of Hell—but this is one I’d not seen before. The engraving is by Cornelis Galle the Elder after a drawing by Lodovico Cardi (also known as Cigoli), and it’s unusual for showing Lucifer in full rather than the more common partial view of the monster imprisoned in the ice.


The engraving is another of those that depict several events in one image, with the figures of Virgil and Dante shown crossing the plain of ice then climbing down Lucifer’s body; passing the centre of the world Virgil (now carrying Dante) changes direction to account for the reversal of gravity. Climbing a rocky path, they emerge at the foot of Mount Purgatory to find Lucifer’s legs protruding from the stone. The reversal of gravity is one of the more advanced ideas in The Divine Comedy, as is the general idea of a spherical Earth. What Dante doesn’t mention, and few artists show, is Lucifer’s sexless groin positioned at the Centrum Mundi, a detail accounted for here. (Larger version.)


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lachman’s Inferno
Hell, a film by Rein Raamat
Mirko Racki’s Inferno
Albert Goodwin’s fantasies
Harry Lachman’s Inferno
Melancholy Lucifers
Maps of the Inferno
A TV Dante by Tom Phillips and Peter Greenaway
The last circle of the Inferno
Angels 4: Fallen angels