Friday, 7 February 2014

Tree Lore #1: Wood of Suicides

The Wood of Suicides illustrates a passage from the Inferno canticle of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  Sinners who take their own lives are condemned by King Minos to the Seventh Circle of Hell. The Wood of the Suicides is where the souls are transformed into gnarled, disfigured, and brittle trees which comprise this gruesome forest. Each tree is different, for example, Bella's tree has vine wrapped around her neck like a noose, representing how she took her life. Each tree is a twisted version of their own suicide. The trees produce Suicide Fruit that causes thoughts of suicide on humans like Dante. If he is unable to resist the effects of the fruit, he will commit suicide by stabbing himself with his cross.

The illustration is Gustave Doré Suicides and Squanderers from 1861. Finding it difficult to secure a publisher willing to take on the expense of producing the opulent folio edition the artist envisioned, Doré himself financed the publication of the first book of the series, Inferno. The production was an immediate artistic and commercial success.

By South Utsire

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