L’Inferno di Dante

Chronicling Dante’s journey to hell and back with Michael Mazur’s art.

L’Inferno di Dante
Artwork by Michael Mazur

Artist Michael Mazur does something unusual in illustrating Dante’s Inferno: He lets us behold Dante Alighieri’s world through the poet’s eyes, not in third person. The harrowing vision is a project Mazur undertook from 1994 to 2000 in response to a translation by poet Robert Pinsky. Mazur considered this the most ambitious project in his life. Pinsky said that Mazur’s etchings “are themselves acts of translation.” Each etching—printed on vellum in dense black and white—is paired with cantos in Italian and English translation, chronicling Dante’s journey to hell and back. A tale centuries old becomes captivating and contemporary. Through June 2018, SCU’s de Saisset Museum hosts an exhibition of Mazur’s interpretation of the Inferno in its entirety. These are part of the museum’s permanent collection, a gift of Smith Andersen Editions—thanks to the late Paula Z. Kirkeby.


… cross to the other side
Of the dark water, and before one throng can land
On the far shore, on this side new souls crowd.


Through a round aperture I saw appear

Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears
Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars


Day was departing, and the darkening air



From every country, all of them eager to find
Their way across the water.


…how many worthy souls endured
Suspension in that Limbo.


“Oh let Medusa come,” the Furies bayed.


All over the sand
Distended flakes of fire drifted from aloft.


We journeyed now
With the ten demons.


“That monstrousness
Is Gianni Schicchi; he runs rabid among
The others here, and graces them like this.


All round the bank encompassing the pit
With half their bulk like towers above it, stood
Horrible giants.

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