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  • Writer's pictureRobert Brinkerhoff

Inferno XIII: The Pathos of Self-Harm

Inferno XIII: The Forest of Suicides Ink on paper, 2016 22 x 15” In the second ring of the seventh circle of hell, Virgil encourages Dante to pluck a twig from a thorn tree. Our hero is shocked to discover that the tree is an unnamed suicide, whose plaintive cries and oozing black blood reveal the collective fate of the entire forest. * * * As Dante and Virgil enter the second of three rings in the Circle of the Violent, they encounter the fate of those who do violence to themselves. Disembodied moans surround them and Virgil tells Dante that if he were to pluck a twig from one of the mangled trees, he might learn the story. Dante does so, and—weeping with despair and oozing black blood—the tree ultimately unravels his story. He walked the earth as Pier della Vigna, counselor to the Emperor Frederick II. Vigna’s fated suicide was in a strange way the result of his fierce dedication and love for Frederick. His contemporaries grew envious of their close relationship and they circulated ugly rumors, causing him great shame, despair and—ultimately—death by his own hand. In search of a different language for this drawing, I’ve developed something more of a design.

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