Divina Commedia, Inferno, 7th Canto, 40/42. “Ed elli a me: “Tutti quanti fuor guerci/ sì de la mente in la vita primaia,/ che con misura nullo spendio ferci.” Ink and watercolour. 51 x 33.
We have arrived at the fourth circle of Dante's Inferno. On guard is an impotent Pluto, "cursed wolf" who with this name already introduces the sense of this Canto, the avarice. However, I have decided, at the moment, to neglect this incipit and its well known “Pape Satan, Pape Satan Aleppe” !.
Continuing on, the scene portrays damned souls who continually push huge boulders to and fro. They are the souls of avaricous and prodigals in life. Then they became slaves to their greed: the greedy ones of money, the lavish ones of the goods of the world. Now they are chained to huge and useless boulders, like "life prisoners", to quote the italian critic Vittorio Sermonti. Without "measure" it was life, without "measure" it is punishment.
The scene was "visualized" by many illustrators of the Divine Comedy, with different compositions: from long to more dramatic close shots, as, recently, in the case of the excellent Gabriele Dell’Otto. Since I always try to put Dante at the center of the action, I opted for a horizontal format and a long shot "but not too much", with the idea of rendering the first impression I would have received when emerging on the scene of the fourth circle.
Dante also makes you perceive the deafening noise of rolling boulders and the screams of the damned. These rhythmically collide at the end of their "to and fro" shouting back to each other, the well known: "Why are you holding on? ... Why are you pushing? " It is not easy to translate all this with drawing. So I thought of rolling the boulders on a hard pavement, stone against stone, thus evoking the din of ancient carriages on the Roman and medieval paving. Someone will remember from their studies how it was forbidden in the centers of Roman cities, at certain times, the traffic of wagons and carts!
"Avari e Prodighi" is my tenth illustration dedicated to Dante’s Inferno: as you can see, I go to smaller formats than the first. I like a drawing that is as "descriptive" as possible, and therefore with many details. This, combined with the watercolor technique, slowly led me to contain the size of pictures: a way to avoid compositions that are easily unbalanced due to the a too large available space, as in the case of the one dedicated to Minos.