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  • Writer's pictureRobert Brinkerhoff

Inferno VI: A Good Idea Gone Wrong

Inferno VI: Cerberus

Ink on paper, 2023

22 x 15”

Inferno VI: Cerberus

Ink on paper, 2016

22 x 15”

In the sixth canto, Dante and Virgil encounter Cerberus—the three-headed hound of hell—who guards their passage with his ferocious barking as he lords over miserable sinners, writhing in the mire below.

* * *

Above are two drawings. The first attempt is the second one, produced in 2016. While at the American Academy in Rome on an Affilkiate Fellowship this fall, I produced the top drawing, which I consider an improvement.

The second drawing was a classic case of a good idea gone wrong. Its compositional lethargy is the result a my well-intended yet ill-conceived notion that, by placing Cerberus in the center of the image and surrounding him with a heaving mass of pathetic souls writhing on the ground beneath him, I could metaphorically represent the scene without showing the literal geography. I was trying to introduce some variety to my repertoire of visual presentation tropes.

I think that most conceptions of this moment in L'Inferno picture Cerberus perched on a rock, enabling him to survey the bodies below while rain and huge hailstones pummel the crowd. But what I've created is not sufficiently depicting that dynamic and, instead, Cerberus is simply plopped in the center of the image, hovering sans gravity and sitting at the same time. The hail disappears when it's superimposed over the figures. So many bad decisions—this is definitely a "do-over" when I have time.

The saving grace for me is the figures themselves, which were a joy to draw in all their puling agony. Nothing like a little misery to brighten one's spirits.

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