The Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli spent over a decade painting and drawing hell as the poet Dante described it. The film takes us on a journey through hell with fascinating and exciting insights into Botticelli’s art and its hidden story.
When one merges the style of one of the undisputed masters of the Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli, with the dark circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, the result is an intriguing plot made up of deadly sins, detailed investigations, inaccessible vaults, and seemingly unsolvable enigmas.
The film is part of the project Great Art Cinema and analyses one of the most mysterious works of Sandro Botticelli, the Map of Hell in the Divine Comedy Illustrated by Botticelli in the Vatican Library. The map was originally part of an illustrated manuscript of Dante’s Divine Comedy, featuring artwork by Botticelli. It attempts to shed light on Botticelli’s motivation for drawing his Map of Hell, and, in the process, to reveal the dark, and less well known, side of the Renaissance master who is famous for painting The Birth of Venus and Primavera.
Botticelli had created 102 drawings based on the writings of Dante’s Inferno depicting Dante’s vision of Hell. One of those drawings, the Map of Hell, shows the suffering of the condemned souls at the various levels of Hell, is analysed by art experts and their conclusions are presented in the film. The drawing is about 30 by 40 centimetres and in the film it is examined by a glove-wearing German art historian inside the air-conditioned vaults of the Vatican. A letter from Friedrich Lippmann, director of Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, who in 1882 brought 85 of Botticelli’s 102 drawings to the museum, is also shown in the film. The film was shot at the Vatican in Rome, in Florence, London, Berlin and Scotland during the summer of 2016. Especially for the film, the Map of Hell was digitised with a high-powered scanner, bringing to light details that had previously been invisible to the naked eye.
Germany 2016, 96 min
Directed by Ralph Loop