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  • Writer's pictureRobert Brinkerhoff

Inferno II: An Apt Comparison

Inferno II: Aeneas Enters the Underworld Ink on paper, 2016 22 x 15”

In the second canto, Dante asks his guide—the spirit of the Roman poet Virgil, author of The Aeneid—why he has been chosen to embark on such a formidable journey. He resists a comparison to Aeneas, who also ventured into the underworld. * * * In the first canto of L'Inferno, Dante encounters Virgil, who explains to him the reputation of the beasts and the interaction between the two poets is one of the first instances of intertemporality, in which elements (in this case the two poets) from different times interact to convey a broader message. In La Commedia, Dante is both himself and Everyman, and he masterfully interweaves his true identity with that of mankind in a gripping tale of morality. In the second canto, Dante balks at the comparison of himself and Aeneas, who entered the underworld at the bidding of his father in order to foresee the fate of Rome. Virgil is in many ways a paternal figure in the poem, and the analogy isn't hard to see. The drawing depicts a view from the entrance to the underworld, presumably from the perspective of Aeneas after his flight from the burning city of Troy. His ship (a bireme or trireme) is docked in the foreground and the city burns on the distant shore. This is one of the few drawings I have done that doesn't include a figure in service to the pictorial narrative. Perhaps this is for the sake of variety, but more likely it is done to avoid my cartoonish tendencies. If there's anything I wish to learn from this exercise it's the transcendence of levity in favor of darkness when it's appropriate. It's always been a struggle, this avoidance of humor in inappropriate circumstances. The lack of figuration may also be a natural way to detach from the immediate narrative a little. By showing a scene from a different time and space, and eliminating explicit reference to the narrators, I may see this as a sort of illustrated "cutaway," similar to the cinematic device used in film editing to denote parallel action.

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