Rachel Owen: Illustrations for Dante’s 'Inferno'

£25.00
SKU: BODS-100434

For seven hundred years artists armed with pens, needles and brushes have been eager to accompany Dante into hell. Rachel Owen decided to take her camera as well, and returned with images which she mixed with found materials and bold markers plus a few dashes of colour to create what seem like daring stills from a film noir of Dante's journey. - Tom Phillips

More than ‘illustrations’, Rachel Owen’s images work powerfully on the viewer, who is invited to become the pilgrim/Dante and so to experience the Divine Comedy with an unprecedented directness. Her bold incorporation of personal imagery is faithful to the spirit of the poem, to which she sends us back with a renewed sense of Dante’s universal appeal. This beautiful tribute from poets and Dante specialists to one who was herself both a scholar and an artist is a significant contribution to all of these fields. - Gervase Rosser, Professor of the History of Art, University of Oxford

Rachel Owen’s hauntingly beautiful illustrations for Dante’s Inferno take a radically new approach to representing the world of Dante’s famous poem. The images combine the artist’s deep cultural and historical understanding of The Divine Comedy and its artistic legacy with her unique talent for collage and printmaking. These illustrations, casting the viewer as a first-person pilgrim through the underworld, prompt us to rethink Dante’s poem through their novel perspective and visual language.

Owen’s work, held in the Bodleian Library and published here for the first time, illustrates the complete cycle of thirty-four cantos of the Inferno with one image per canto. The illustrations are accompanied by essays contextualising Owen’s work and supplemented by six illustrations intended for the unfinished Purgatorio series. Fiona Whitehouse provides details of the techniques employed by the artist, Peter Hainsworth situates Owen’s work in the field of modern Dante illustration and David Bowe offers a commentary on the illustrations as gateways to Dante’s poem. Jamie McKendrick and Bernard O’Donoghue’s translations of episodes from the Inferno provide complementary artistic interpretations of Dante’s poem, while reflections from colleagues and friends commemorate Owen’s life and work as an artist, scholar and teacher. This stunning collection is an important contribution to both Dante scholarship and illustration.


Rachel Owen (1968-2016) was a visual artist and scholar who specialised in the works of Dante. She taught Italian Literature at Pembroke College and at other colleges within the University of Oxford. 

David Bowe is an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow in the Italian Department of University College Cork and co-director of the Centre for Dante Studies in Ireland.

Contributors: Guido Bonsaver, David Bowe, Peter Hainsworth, Jamie McKendrick, Bernard O’Donoghue, Rachel Owen, Fiona Whitehouse

  • Hardback
  • 128 pages, 259 x 237 mm
  • 52 colour illustrations
  • ISBN: 9781851245703
  • Publication September 2021

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