Support our mission
 
A depiction of Lucifer trapped in ice in the center of the lowest level of hell is one of 34 stringed instruments making up an art exhibit in Vicenza, Italy based on Dante's "Divine Comedy." "Infernus" runs through Aug. 31.
A depiction of Lucifer trapped in ice in the center of the lowest level of hell is one of 34 stringed instruments making up an art exhibit in Vicenza, Italy based on Dante's "Divine Comedy." "Infernus" runs through Aug. 31. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

One cello and 33 violins, all heavily inked with signs, symbols and images illustrating a famous epic poem about a terrifying adventure in hell, are on display this summer in the cool, vast hall of the Palladian Basilica.

The exhibition “Infernus,” by young Vicenza-born artist Leonardo Frigo, is the first pandemic post-lockdown art exhibition in the basilica, Vicenza’s most famous building, in more than a year. It maps out in ink and text the 34 cantos or sections of “Inferno,” the first part of Dante Alighieri’s famous 14th-century epic poem the “Divine Comedy.” It runs through Aug. 31.

Dante, you may recall from English class, explored in his poem the nine concentric circles of torment in hell suffered by a variety of sinners, including murderers, hypocrites, seducers, gluttons, opportunists, fraudsters and the faithless, among others. He’s accompanied on his journey by the ancient Roman poet Virgil; the two were clued in to what awaited them as early as the third canto when they read the inscription on hell’s gate: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” it said.

This does not apply to exhibition goers. Although 34 musical instruments covered front and back in graffiti-like markings, along with 34 explanatory signs in Italian and English, do make for a lot of reading. 

Vicenza-born artist Leonardo Frigo painted 33 violins and one cello with scenes from Dante's epic poem the "Divine Comedy" for the first exhibition at the Palladian Basilica since the pandemic-forced lockdown more than a year ago. The exhibit runs through Aug. 31.
Vicenza-born artist Leonardo Frigo painted 33 violins and one cello with scenes from Dante's epic poem the "Divine Comedy" for the first exhibition at the Palladian Basilica since the pandemic-forced lockdown more than a year ago. The exhibit runs through Aug. 31. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
Snakes in hell are shown on one of 33 violins painted with scenes from the great medieval Italian poet Dante's Divine Comedy. The exhibit is at the Palladian Basilica in Vicenza, Italy through Aug. 31.
Snakes in hell are shown on one of 33 violins painted with scenes from the great medieval Italian poet Dante's Divine Comedy. The exhibit is at the Palladian Basilica in Vicenza, Italy through Aug. 31. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

But the sight of the beautiful instruments lined up in the huge, domed hall dating to the 1500s is stunning, and the meticulously painted images are interesting. The explanatory text provides a lively exposition of medieval demonology and theology, and highlights Dante’s beautiful language.

One surprise is that at the center of hell in its lowest level, Lucifer, formerly God’s fairest angel condemned for his treacherous rebellion, has become a giant beast with three faces trapped waist-deep in ice, not fire.

It took Frigo five years to paint the violins and cello. He’s been painting stringed instruments for nearly a decade, according to the exhibit curation, combining art, literature and music in a single object, one that “winks” at tattoo and street art. 

Included in the art exhibit "Infernus" at the Palladian Basilica inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy" is a portrait of Dante. He is widely considered the greatest Italian writer, with the "Divine Comedy" his masterpiece. Still, he was forced out of Florence in a political dispute and died in Ravenna in 1321.
Included in the art exhibit "Infernus" at the Palladian Basilica inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy" is a portrait of Dante. He is widely considered the greatest Italian writer, with the "Divine Comedy" his masterpiece. Still, he was forced out of Florence in a political dispute and died in Ravenna in 1321. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

The exhibition comes in the year marking the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, widely considered Italy’s greatest writer.

“I want this project to represent a sign of true rebirth and a push towards the future: an emotional journey that helps us to ‘see the stars again,’” Frigo told La Milano. He was referring to the last line in Dante’s Inferno, when he and Virgil push up from hell through a tunnel: “Where we came forth and once more saw the stars.”

The vast hall in the Palladian Basilica shows an exhibit based on a medieval epic poem, July 6, 2021 in Vicenza, Italy. The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 31, is also expected to appeal to people interested in tattoo and street art.
The vast hall in the Palladian Basilica shows an exhibit based on a medieval epic poem, July 6, 2021 in Vicenza, Italy. The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 31, is also expected to appeal to people interested in tattoo and street art. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The Palladian Basilica, designed by Renaissance architect Andreas Palladio, whose works inspired Thomas Jefferson, recently reopened after pandemic lockdowns in Italy lasting more than a year. It opened with an art exhibit commemorating the 700th anniversary of the poet Dante's death.
The Palladian Basilica, designed by Renaissance architect Andreas Palladio, whose works inspired Thomas Jefferson, recently reopened after pandemic lockdowns in Italy lasting more than a year. It opened with an art exhibit commemorating the 700th anniversary of the poet Dante's death. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)
The Palladian Basilica, designed by Renaissance architect Andreas Palladio, whose works inspired Thomas Jefferson, just recently reopened after pandemic lockdowns in Italy lasting more than a year. A Vicenza landmark, it opened with an art exhibit commemorating the 700th anniversary of the poet Dante's death.
The Palladian Basilica, designed by Renaissance architect Andreas Palladio, whose works inspired Thomas Jefferson, just recently reopened after pandemic lockdowns in Italy lasting more than a year. A Vicenza landmark, it opened with an art exhibit commemorating the 700th anniversary of the poet Dante's death. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Address: Palladian Basilica, Piazza dei Signori, 36100 Vicenza VI

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday 

Admission: 5 euros; 2 euros for Vicenza residents (with ID card); free for under 18.

Information: Online: infernus2021.com; facebook.com/IViolinidInfernus; Phone (+39) 0444 964380. 

twitter Email

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up