Inferno Exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale

inferno dante exhibition rome
Bottega di Hyeronimus Bosch. La visione di Tundalo 1500 circa Tempera su tavola Madrid, Museo Lazaro Galdiano.

Over 200 works to celebrate Dante Alighieri, the Supreme Poet

On the occasion of the seven hundredth anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death, the Scuderie del Quirinale brings together an international exhibition with more than two hundred works by different artists about the concept of hell and damnation from the Middle Ages to the present day.  

A powerful, ambitious and spectacular exhibition, capable of taking the visitor to unexpected territories through the power of images and the depth of ideas. Accompanied by the words of Dante, visitors will cross the terrifying places and the heartbreaking visions of Hell represented by artists of all ages: from schematic medieval scenes to sublime Renaissance and Baroque inventions, from tormented romantic visions to relentless analytical interpretations of the 20th century. The journey to Hell takes us deeper and deeper into the many transliterations of the experience of Hell on Earth: madness, alienation, war, extermination. 

inferno dante exhibition rome
Sandro Botticelli. La Divina Commedia: la voragine infernale. Punta d’argento e inchiostro su pergamena. Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano

​​The exhibition’s itinerary unfolds through works of art borrowed from more than eighty major museums, public collections and prestigious private collections, coming from different countries in Europe. Among the masterpieces present in the museum, there are many renowned artists, such as Botticelli, Manet, Rodin, Cézanne and among many others. 

The exposition is based on the chants of the epic and theological poem written by Dante in the 14th century, the Divina Commedia. As we climb the museum’s stairs towards the entrance, we come across a short film adaptation of the poem, setting the tone for what’s to come next. The first section addresses the origins of Hell, which vary across different religions with Christianity holding important the opposition between good and evil. The massive Hell door by Rodin in the middle of the room is definitely one of the most impressive works due to its grandeur and richness in detail. From that moment, the doors are open for a complete immersion in the mouth of Hell. 

inferno dante exhibition rome
Jan Brueghel. Le tentazioni di Sant’Antonio Abate, 1601-1625. Olio su tavola. Valladolid, Museo Nacional de Escultura © Museo Nacional de Escultura. Valladolid / Photo: Javier Munoz y Paz Pastor

Death, Judgment, Hell and Paradise, all addressed in the Divina Commedia, are taken up by the Catholic Church and the idea of a final judgment appears in many paintings with strong images of the counterpoint between those who go to Paradise and those who go to Hell. The alternation of dark and light images makes the distinction crystal clear. Paintings that show the horrors of Hell and its inhabitants are also complemented by a section addressing the Devil’s metamorphosis, exposing its various faces and how it has been portrayed throughout history. 

Sin, temptation and its consequences brought when the Devil is present in biblical history is a theme of great prominence in the exhibition. Impressive works with passages representing the “forbidden” compose the gallery of evil. Dante’s work allows us to take an extraordinary tour inside Hell, exploring in fact the consequences of life on Earth. 

inferno dante exhibition rome
Auguste Rodin. La porta dell’Inferno (1880-1917). Calco in gesso in due parti del 1989. Parigi, Musée Rodin © 2021 Musée Rodin / ADAGP

The great halls of the exhibition present to us intense scenes about how Hell can be experienced on our planet. Wars, massacres and tragedies show us that this “place” addressed by Dante is actually not so far from us. Whether in the daily life of factories, inhospitable places as prisons, or pure madness, Hell is present not only in biblical stories, but also in what we live as a society. Be it the extermination in the First World War or the 9/11 attack, the exhibition shows how this dark place can become something close to our reality. 

inferno dante exhibition rome
Pieter Huys. Inferno, 1570. Olio su tavola. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado. © Photographic Archive. Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid

After the culmination of evil, the exhibition ends with the evocation of the idea of salvation, entrusted by Dante to the last stanza of the Canticle: and then we go out to see the stars again. A beautiful room with pictures from the universe shows us how in fact everything goes by, ending an exhibition that shows a lot about death, but also about life. 

The exhibition curated by Di Jean Clair will remain at Scuderie del Quirinale until January 23rd, 2022.

Till January 23, 2022

Scuderie del Quirinale

Via XXIV Maggio, 16 (Monti)

Opening hours: everyday 10am-8pm

Entry fee: €13 – 15

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