The Divine Comedy

Marco Russo Art + Edizioni Carthesia

Three painting on canvas (50x70 cm size) that tells the poet's journey.

It's arrived!

3 volumes with case
768 pages
Color pages
cm 21,6 x 29,6


Publisher's Comment:

A milestone of universal literature in an unprecedented edition: on the occasion of the seventh centenary of the death of the Supreme poet, Chartesia presents a Divine Comedy meticulously explained song by song and fully illustrated with over 100 extraordinary unpublished pictorial works, created exclusively for this edition by 36 Italian contemporary artists.

An absolute editorial novelty, a powerful operation of cultural dissemination that finally makes Dante's poem accessible to the general public of neophytes through an authoritative and at the same time modern and engaging approach.


Divided into three volumes - Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso - collected in an elegant decorated case, the work boasts the authoritative introductions by Aldo Maria Costantini, former professor of Dante Philology and Criticism and Italian Literature at the University "Ca 'Foscari" of Venice.

There follows the dense apparatus of explanatory texts that clearly illustrate, song by song, the historical, mythological, biblical and astronomical references evoked by Dante, the implications and theological, philosophical and technical terminologies used by the Poet, the reason for the placement of the various characters in that particular song, the references between different songs, the connection with Dante's experience and with the chronicles, uses and medieval customs, as well as the moral purpose of the song itself.


Here, thanks to a simple and effective language, even the inexperienced or fasting reader of Dante can find the information necessary to understand and be able to independently read the wonderful original verses of the Comedy, fully reproduced at the end of the explanation text.

The amazing artistic kit, curated by emerging talents and established artists who have brought Italian art beyond the border, completes the reflection on Dante's work through more than 100 works of "visual poetry" ranging from Abstract to Figurative, from Spatialism to Street Art, from Cubism to Expressionism, disruptive interpretations that reinterpret with the most diverse techniques and styles the incredible variety of scenes and landscapes crossed by the Poet in his imaginary journey.


In this edition, our paintings appears both through the poem chronology, both at the end of the book in the summary with a comment about the painting.
Questo è quanto riportato per l’immagine dell’inferno:

Marco Russo, Inferno (The Hell) XXXI, 2020

Acrylic on canvas, 70x50 cm

"The illustration of the thirty-first canto of the first canticle depicts Dante and Virgil approaching the pit of the giants, the claustrophobic funnel between the eighth and ninth circles of hell into which superb men of macroscopic dimensions, linked to a past time, are stuck up to the navel . Their strength is inhibited by the pain of being immobilized, buried in the rock up to the belly, an idea that the artist expresses with the training of muscular and imposing bodies, clearly inspired by the images of comic book superheroes; the concept of the confused mind in giants, which makes them unable to understand others and to communicate, is proposed by the artist in a symbolic way, through the bowing of their heads, with an insecure and penitent gaze, an image that contrasts with that of their body strong and seemingly invincible. The two poets observe the powerful scene from a higher point, remaining astonished. "
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Inferno (The Hell)

– Canto XXXI – 

Hell is the best known part of Dante's Divine Comedy, therefore it is the part that has been most illustrated and reproduced. With all the references available then, it was easy to come up with ideas in my mind among the various songs and in fact, I had several in mind: The famous scene of Canto I where Charon ferries Dante and Virgil, or the close-up of the Poet who seeing the tortured souls, he gives in to a cry of fear, sorrow, terror and a sense of guilt. 

However, I was looking for new images, which had never been reproduced and above all, which could be as dynamic as the cover of a super-hero comic but painted in the most traditional sense.

I therefore chose Canto XXI where Dante visits the pit of the giants. But how giants? Dante says they were like towers. I wanted to represent a claustrophobic scene: Men of enormous size tied close to each other with half a body in the water. Around them, in the dark, the infernal warm light. 

Their faces clearly express their discomfort: they are confused, they cannot move, they cannot get out of the water, they cannot immerse the part outside, they cannot communicate, let off steam, be heard. So it has been for millennia and so it will be forever and Dante looks at all this, amazed, from a higher point of the path.

He will have to go down, because in the hell he describes, one must always go down but not even from that elevated point, he can see the giants from above and in fact he is under the vanishing point.

The canvas has had an evolving genesis, especially as regards the colors. Initially I thought of playing a warm contrast for Dante and the part of the earth on which he stands and cold colors for the giants. 

But I felt the need to warm up those cool colors but I needed a color to do it. A particular color that was the fulcrum of everything. 

One day with my wife and my mother we went to lunch in an oriental restaurant and next to it there was also one of the classic Chinese shops full of everything. My mom had to shop so we went in and usually these shops always have a stationery-stationery department. This, however, also had a series of very particular acrylic colors, between them I recognized how it was a lighting, the color I needed: a fluorescent pink! 

That particular "point" of color gave the atmosphere to the image. The warm light reflects on the rough ceiling, made of boiling rock on one side and frozen on the other. 

To get that material effect I used dense paint and acrylic plaster. To the touch, it feels even more real!


Watch the video of the processing.

A hundred hours of work speeded up and condensed in just 5 minutes. From blank canvas to finished canvas.


Edizioni Chartesia has granted the ABSOLUTE preview of this painting only for the " Marco Russo Art - OPEN STUDIO ONLINE ", the live broadcast during the days of Lucca Comics with the support of the event itself.
You can watch the broadcast at this link. At 1 hour and 17 minutes our Panel begins with Edizioni Chartesia with the participation of Marco Gottardi (Writer) and David Fazzari (our collaborator and moderator). Special thanks to Christian Ronchin the chief editor. - (We will add English subtitles in the video very soon) -
Click Here


– Canto XXXI –

For me, purgatory was a real discovery. I found it fantastic! But what could I represent? 

After the descent, the ascent to the mountain? Dante in the fire that doesn't burn? No. There was only one image to make, the summit of history up to the vision of God in heaven and to describe it in words, not a few can be used. 

At the end of Dante's impervious path, after seeing horrible things, after passing tests that forced the protagonist to overcome many of his limits, he arrives there, at the entrance to heaven: Canto XXXI.

Dante's eyes go from seeing the atrocious tortures of the damned, sinners of all kinds, to the garden of Eden, the paradise, and who does he meet? Her. His muse, her love, his obsession. 

He made the hardest journey in human history just to reach it. On her side, she went down to hell to ask Virgil to take Dante and bring him to her, when he could have stayed there in heaven in eternal peace. How does this love story that has traveled beyond death, time, space, evil and good end? What does Beatrice say to the great poet when she sees him? Will she whisper to her everything she did? Will you tell her about her plan to give Dante the privilege of knowing the 3 kingdoms of the afterlife? She scolds him bitterly!

Twist of the scene. Climax. Everyone in front of the TV still. With the hand in front of the mouth opened. Fingers holding a popcorn. All stopped. 

Beatrice reproaches Dante for practically everything and the devastated poet collapses to the ground crying. But why? For love. 

Beatrice wanted to allow Dante to access heaven and therefore she had to repent of all sin because God cannot be accessed by unrepentant sinners. What a love story! 

All these words are perhaps useless, however, if you are in front of the painting. Although they have many variations, the canvas is basically composed of green and red. The green is that of the earthly paradise, bright but there are two reds: Dante is dressed in red and also Beatrice. I wanted to play with it: Beatrice wears a red that has a greater component of white inside, which therefore makes it more pink. (Carmine and  vermilion), while Dante has a red dress with a greater component of yellow, which makes it warmer and "fire" (coincidentally) and "earth" colors. Above all, Dante at this moment is a sinner who is dealing with his sins and therefore is darker than both the earthly paradise and Beatrice, who has already put things right with God.

Watch the video of the processing.

A hundred hours of work speeded up and condensed in just 5 minutes. From blank canvas to finished canvas.


In this edition, our paintings appears both through the poem chronology, both at the end of the book in the summary with a comment about the painting.
This is what is written about our Heaven's painting:


Marco Russo, Purgatorio XXXI, 2020

Acrylic on canvas, 70x50 cm


The image of the thirty-first canto of Purgatory is rendered by the artist as the topical moment, the most exciting grand finale of the painful chapters of Dante's journey, descending from Hell and going up for Purgatory. Dante now arrives in the Garden of Eden, the earthly paradise, and his beloved Beatrice is revealed before him. The woman wears a sumptuous, old-fashioned period dress, but her straight and confident posture and stern gaze derive directly from the imagery of the superheroines of Marvel comics. Dante does not cry because of the strong emotion, but for the pain and the sense of guilt deriving from the reproach that the woman addresses to him, putting him in front of the mistakes made after his departure from the world. The severity of the emotional conditions of the two protagonists stands in stark contrast to the flowery and luminous nature of the earthly Paradise. But it is the beauty of nature itself that promises that this will be the last of the sufferings before reaching the divine light.



Heaven has given me some difficulties. First of all, it is the least known part if we compare it to hell. Even as a historian of the images drawn from the text, there are not very many of them. 

Positive note: I would not have been influenced by someone else's work. 

Negative note: I didn't know where to start. 

Another problem: the iconography. 

What comes to the word paradise (understood as the celestial realm)? Angels? Clouds? Let's say that that iconography could not be changed that much. If in hell the innovation was to use a fluorescent color, I could not innovate by creating a different "celestial" environment. Dante was a religious who wrote what he knew or what he imagined according to what was taught at that time. In addition, he quotes the Bible, he talks and meets men with religious offices and therefore, if he has told it this way it means that he certainly, he imagined it so.

I therefore chose an image with a "structured" iconography, canto XXI, the golden scaleo. (the stairway to heaven)

How do you imagine the stairway to heaven? I went for the classic: glossy marble. And how is the image composed? Dante who looks around happy and incredulous, behind him (or rather, in front of him) Beatrice, in perspective closer to God than him, who shows him the way, the central vanishing point, at the top, from which the light: God.

Dante is about to get there. 

I asked for the help of an expert to understand the context. On the stairs, men go up and down, in an ethereal, luminous form. I imagined that these characters could have a clearer and more human form as they descend, approaching, so to speak, the lower floors; and that they were more united to the central light in the ascent phase.

The background is an immense riot of colors composed of turquoise, blue and purple that collide with straw yellow lights with “rainbow” touches given by the strong central warm and pure light. These reflections were made with yellow and fluorescent fuchsia acrylic colors. These types of colors raise the color saturation in a particular way, even when mixed with colors with “standard” parameters.


In this edition, our paintings appears both through the poem chronology, both at the end of the book in the summary with a comment about the painting.
This is what is written about our Heaven's painting:


Marco Russo, Paradiso XXI, 2020

Acrylic on canvas, 70x50 cm

The image of the twenty-first canto of Paradise depicts the arrival of Dante and Beatrice at the golden "staircase" of the sky of Saturn. This is the stairway to Heaven, which will finally bring Dante to the sight of God; Beatrice shows him the uphill road, and the other blessed souls go up and down. The artist wanted to fully capture the feelings of the poet, who looks around in disbelief, amazed and joyful. The sublime event is paradoxically illustrated with a very material visual language, taken from the shapes and style of comics. From the top of the staircase, immersed in the transparency of the clouds, a dazzling and psychedelic light comes out, the artist seems to want to compare Dante's happiness to the ecstatic happiness of the spectator of the most successful disco parties of our times, even if actually lacking their typical sensual dimension.

Hell - Canto XXI

Purgatory – Canto XXXI

Heaven – Canto XXI

Divine Comedy Exhibition

In Treviso (Italy)
From September 11th 2021 to January 16th 2022

Address: Museo Casa Gaia – Via Businiello 2 – Portobuffolè (TV)
There you can find all the three painting on canvas made for this extraordinary project by Edizioni Chartesia.
find out more
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