An Architect’s Vision of Dante’s Hell

Based in Campinas, Brazil, Paulo de Tarso Coutinho is a professional architect with a passion for Dante who created the following videos to visually represent the spatial issues in play in the Dantean conception of hell. Drawing on the early modern reception of the Commedia, including Antonio Manetti (1423-1497) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Coutinho incisively reads Dante’s infernal journey in architectural terms and shows how the form of the spiral is a necessary solution for the way that the space of hell is narrated in the poem. In similar fashion, his video of Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) illustration of hell puts an emphasis on the concrete, creating a cross-section of the globe to put this infernal model in real space and highlighting Botticelli’s idiosyncratic use of staircases to think through the mechanics of Dante’s descent. Coutinho’s work is an important way of showing the degree to which Dante’s poetry was infused by the real, martialing mathematical and scientific currents to narrate a space that would inspire the sort of reception by later artists and thinkers who sought to map it in precise geographical and spatiotemporal terms. As Coutinho shows, that process continues still.

Akash Kumar


Hell Explained


Spiral of Hell with Doré Images


Antonio Manetti’s Hell


Botticelli’s Hell


Recommended Citation

Souza, P.T.C.V.  “An Architect’s Vision of Dante’s Hell.” Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2018. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/image/souza-visualizations/.

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