Friday, 24 January 2014

Gianni Schicchi: Vampire or Zombie?

Dante and Virgil in Hell (1850)
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

I saw this painting and the first thing that came to mind was, cool, a vampire. I mean, look at it, one guy is biting another guy quite ferociously in the neck, and flying above them is some type of batlike man which looks very much like something I've seen in such vampire movies as Bram Stoker's Dracula.

It turns out that this is a painting by Bouguereau. Yes, that Bouguereau. The one who also painted the Cupid and Psyche as Children.

In this painting entitled Dante and Virgil in Hell (not to be confused with The Barque of Dante by Eugène Delacroix), Bouguereau is depicting a scene from Dante Alighieri's famous Divine Comedy from the 1300's. In the first part of the poem called Inferno the characters Dante and Virgil are led through different levels of hell. This particular scene is in the eighth circle of hell where falsifiers (liars, counterfeiters, and so on) are kept.

In Canto XXX it reads:

As I beheld two shadows pale and naked,
Who, biting, in the manner ran along
That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose.
One to Capocchio came, and by the nape
Seized with its teeth his neck, so that in dragging
It made his belly grate the solid bottom.
And the Aretine, who trembling had remained,
Said to me: "That mad sprite is Gianni Schicchi,
And raving goes thus harrying other people."

So there I have it. In this painting Gianni Schicchi is not a vampire sucking the blood of Capocchio. But he could be a zombie though.

As is so succinctly paraphrased in one commentary: "That goblin is Gianni Schicci, and he goes, rabidly, mangling others like that."

No comments: