Dante & Virgil by Bouguereau in details

Highway to hell A vision of hell and furious drama inspired by the 30 th song of Hell , from The Divine Comedy of Dante. In Bouguereau's academic work, Dante and Virgil are an exception, both for the dark subject matter and the great violence. The young painter, twice failed the Prix de Rome in 1848 and 1849, delivers here a work full of resentment. Bouguereau illustrates with this monumental canvas after a short episode of the eighth circle of L'Enfer , devoted to counterfeiters. It depicts Dante and Virgil, helpless witnesses of the muscular fight between two damned souls: Capocchio and Gianni Schicchi. Damned unleashed The reason for this outburst of violence? A story of big money! In a surge of great brutality, Capocchio, a heretical alchemist, throws himself on his adversary - a certain Gianni Schicchi, who believed, by usurping a dead man's identity to be able to divert the latter's legacy. With an almost superhuman force, Cappochio pulls on the arm of his rival, and bites him, like a vampire, with the carotid ... Schicchi, the red face and contracted with pain, does not give up the fight and grabs the hair fiercely. Capocchio red (a shade far from harmless for our heretic). This fierce struggle is also that of a determined young painter searching for revenge. Perfect bodies A prodigious spectacle! Bougereau does everything in his power here to reinforce the tragic atmosphere of the scene. It exaggerates the contrasts and exacerbates the power of the bodies. The muscles are tense, the gestures very supported ... So watch Capocchio's fingers sink into the folds of Schicchi's flesh! The artist testifies with force to all his talents as an academic painter. From this grandiose composition emanates a profound terribilità , an Italian term used during the Renaissance to describe Michelangelo's powerful and dramatic works. Witnesses in the shadows Looming in the shadows, two full-length painted men observe the scene, looking gloomy and puzzled at the same time. The first, dressed in a long white toga, is none other than Virgil, the most famous of Latin poets, as shown by the laurel wreath placed on his head - a symbol of glory and recognition in antiquity. As for the second in a red coat is Dante, whose profile evokes the portrait of the poet painted by Botticelli in 1495. Powerless witnesses of a merciless fight, their crestfallen face stands out from the sky in which the stars glow red flames of hell. Midnight demon Another witness, flanked by two large bat wings, is jubilant. Perched in the air, a demon with a shining eye seems to mock the fright of the two poets. This supernatural presence tilts this academic canvas into the limbo of black romanticism. Gloomy and melancholy atmospheres, tormented landscapes, nightmarish visions, and demonic figures haunt the minds of artists who make our certainties waver on the canvas, shatter prohibitions and taboos. Like cannibalism here, evoked by the act of biting. Another spectacle, just as appalling, takes place in the background. In deep darkness, a mass of anonymous bodies plunges into the flames. We obviously think of the nightmarish visions of the Flemish primitives (Hieronymus Bosch and Dirk Bouts in the lead) but also of The Fall of the Damned (1620) by Rubens, a frightful collapse of flesh ending up devoured by bloodthirsty monsters. The fate of the damned of Bouguereau is just as unenviable since all end up swallowed by a blaze. Our eye, embarked almost in spite of itself in this infernal race, dives with them, before stopping on a final chilling detail: a corpse with clenched fists, frozen in an expression of terrible pain. He lies, ignored by all, not far from a pool of blood in which shines a name that of William Bouguereau. Seen in Beaux-Arts, Ines Boittiaux

Dante & Virgil by Bouguereau in details

Highway to hell A vision of hell and furious drama inspired by the 30 th song of Hell , from The Divine Comedy of Dante. In Bouguereau's...