Illustrated Versions of Medieval Hell at UVM

In UVM’s Fleming Museum’s latest exhibit, Michael Mazur’s prints depicting scenes of Dante’s Inferno are featured alongside their corresponding canto of the landmark poem.

The first part of Dante’s three-part epic, The Divine Comedy, the Inferno envisions the author’s own journey through hell en route to reunite with his beloved muse.

With 34 cantos in all, Mazur’s exhibition consists of 41 prints, completed from 1996 to 2000, as varied in style as the events of the Inferno, which range from entrance to emergence from the underworld.

The prints, which serve as accompaniment to Robert Pinsky’s renowned published translation of Dante’s work, which was written in Italian in the fourteenth century, are faithful to the events of the epic while presented in a varied perspective; the prints aim to provide an omniscient third-person perspective of the journey while the poem itself is related as a first-person account.

The series elicits a wide range of emotion due to a variety of technique: varied lines, intensities and styles of the works achieve a diverse effect among the prints. Just as Dante’s epic itself, Mazur’s prints are macabre but intricate and engaging, achieved in part by the contrast of black on white and finely nuanced elements, commanding revisitation of each visualized canto.

Mazur’s contemporary drawings serve to illustrate not only the epic itself but also its lasting value to Western society; upon viewing Mazur’s prints, one exhibit attendee commented on the unwavering nature of the human condition throughout the past seven hundred years. The exhibit runs through May 14th for all those who want to view fourteenth century hell before experiencing the contemporary one.