Inferno IV: The Great Poets
Ink on paper, 2016
22 x 15”
In esteemed and honorable company, Dante is invited to walk alongside the shades of four ancient poets, thereby placing himself among giants of verse, but slyly doing so in the guise of fictional narrative. Here he meets Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan, all wandering expressionless in Limbo.
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After the "Gates of Hell" drawing (27 January), I realized that I was setting a stylistic and technical precedent that would be tough to live up to in the time I had allowed to finish the project. Creating so much density and complexity with a 00 Rapidograph pen would be tough. So, I took a gamble and developed an image of the four poets which was much lighter in tone. My hope was that the delicate lines would adequately express the spectral nature of these four shades. I pick up the lighter treatment again later, and I'm pretty pleased with the unity of the series. In fact, I'm glad I did this, because the shifting qualities of each—while related to the others—provides a little variety in the sequence.
The encounter described in Canto IV displays Dante's considerable ego and false humility in full flower. Staging a fraternal invitation by four of the greatest poets to have ever walked the earth was a pretty convenient way to exalt his own status as a living poet, all the while humbling himself by proclaiming his unworthiness.