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The Colours of Dante’s Inferno

Dante, Inferno. The scene of 5th canto. Minosse.
Dante, Inferno. Canto 5th: the scene of “Minosse”
When I set about performing a series of illustrations from Dante's Inferno with ink and watercolors, I had a doubt that I have not yet freed myself from. It concerns a substantial incompatibility between the dominant colors of Dante's Inferno, dark colors between black and red, and the transparencies of watercolor. The ink drawings in black and white allow “brown” atmospheres; on the contrary by the palette there is a risk of turning towards heavy effects, or, to be realistic, of keeping oneself light and nuanced with unlikely half-tones.

I am at the beginning, I am working on the incipit of the fifth Canto (see a sketched detail above); about the previous works I "like" only the illustration dedicated to Charon's boat. It still needs to be finished, but I think I have rendered well the atmosphere of profound oppression and "sadness" that pervades every element around Virgil and Dante. In the other works I swerved more or less conspicuously between effetcts (Gli ignavi) and oleographics (The door of hell, but also La selva oscura).  I saved myself by ink drawing  Dante's scene "Virgilio and the three “Fere”.

Since my initial goal is to render the humanity of the poet's encounters within inhuman atmospheres, I continue to believe that my technical doubts are only school doubts; that the transparency of the watercolor will be a help and not an obstacle; what opaque colors would "help" me above all to fall in eventually coarse effects. It is not easy to remain convinced of this transparency, drawing Minosse and the "incipit" of the  fifth canto: "Stavvi Minos Orribilmente".

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