The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC presents Going through Hell: The Divine Dante, a look at how the poet’s masterwork has influenced artists down the ages. Drawing from the Gallery’s own collection, this intimate exhibition opens with a large allegorical portrait of the artist sitting at the edge of a landscape, gazing back at souls ascending the mountain of Purgatory. In his lap, he holds an open book inscribed with the canto describing his desire to escape his own Purgatory of exile by returning to to his beloved Florence.
Nearby is a bronze of Auguste Rodin’s famous The Thinker who represents Dante. This smaller, original version was made for a set of doors depicting the Gates of Hell commissioned for a Paris museum. His equally iconic The Kiss, part of that same commission, stands in the next room.
The doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca are one of several scenes from Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise that line the walls. Early print editions from the Gallery’s rare book collection are showcased in the center display. The works date from the Renaissance up through the 20th century and the exhibition ends with Robert Rauschenberg’s Drawings for Dante’s 700 Birthday, II. B from 1965. Images from newspapers and magazines, layered with broad patches and swipes of color and black ink, combine to form the artist’s own version of hell, emerging from the turbulence and violence of the time.
WHERE AND WHEN
Going Through Hell runs through July 16, 2023.
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
FEATURED IMAGE: Detail from The Inferno, after the Fresco in the Camposanto of Pisa, c. 1480/1500. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection.