William Bouguerau's Dante and Virgil in Hell (1850)
After viewing William Bouguerau's, Dante and Virgil in Hell, I began a quest to gain a greater understanding of the religious meaning to life, and in particular more meaning to my life. Bouguerau's powerful depiction initially left me with curiosity about Dante's Devine Comedy. I read Dante with fascination and a burning desire to learn more about Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. Like a maddening and irresistible brain teaser I puzzle over these great religions and I am left with more questions than answers. I feel that I could never obtain total knowledge of God, but I thirst for as much knowledge about "him" as could be revealed in an effort to enrich my life.
I first saw William Bouguerau's, Dante and Virgil in Hell, while doing a Google search for images to include in a hate e-mail to a former boyfriend. In studying the captivating images of two powerful men tearing themselves apart in a fight to the death, I experienced what I will call an epiphany. It is hard for me to pin point exactly how it happened. I began to think about the trouble in the Middle East. The war in Iraq, the fighting in Israel and Lebanon, the continued hostilities in Afghanistan, the bombing of the World Trade Center, caused me to think about the death, misery and suffering caused by powerful men fighting. It made no sense to me. Inextricably I was drawn to read the book written by Dante, the Devine Comedy, for which this picture was painted.
Dante Alighieri in 1306 wrote the Devine Comedy. Essentially, the book is about Dante Pilgrim who had not lived a particularly pious life. Beatrice, Dante's deceased girl friend asks the Virgin Mary to help him see the error of his ways. Mary Accepts and Dante is sent on a tour through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. In the beginning he is spiritually lost. His guide through Hell and Purgatory is Virgil (pictured above). In Hell they meet various sinners: the violent, the panderers, the simoniacs, the fortune tellers, the grafters, the hypocrites, the thieves, the evil counselors, the sowers of discord, the falsifiers, the treacherous and the gluttonous. Dante learns to despise sin. Beatrice takes him to heaven where he is introduced to God by St.