Botticelli — Dante’s hell in art | DW Documentary


From DW Documentary.

Botticelli’s paintings still fascinate people more than 500 years after his death. But the artist also had a dark side. He painted and drew hell as described by the poet Dante. The work was considered lost for centuries.

Even during his lifetime, the works of Renaissance painter Botticelli were highly regarded – the powerful Medici family were his patrons. Today, his famous works attract hundreds of thousands of gallery visitors.

But Botticelli, known for paintings like "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera," also had a dark side. He painted and drew Hell as the poet Dante had described it, and it took him more than a decade to do so. One of his works inspired American writer Dan Brown to pen a bestseller. The painting in question is the "Mappa dell’ Inferno," the Abyss of Hell. The work was lost for centuries, the original sketch locked away in the Vatican.

For the documentary "Botticelli Inferno," the vaults of the Vatican were opened, allowing the filmmakers to tell the story of this masterpiece. The way to paradise leads through the nine circles of hell ("Inferno" in Italian,) as well as purgatory. Only those who experience the torture of hell will get into paradise – possibly! Botticelli brought to life Dante’s descriptions of the nine circles of hell in a total of 102 detailed drawings. The central, lavishly colored work is the "Abyss of Hell” – a kind of map through the Inferno, showing the various circles. It’s a fascinating work whose depicted cruelty makes viewers shudder, but which also arouses our curiosity about the secrets it conceals. What more does this mysterious picture still have to reveal to us? Botticelli is considered one of the most important artists of the Renaissance. He repeatedly broke with convention and brought numerous innovations to painting. More than 500 years after his death, he still influences popular culture, inspiring artists as diverse as Lady Gaga and Dan Brown.


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