Art and Architecture

Art and architecture have been central in the Dan Brown novels featuring Robert Langdon. Often it is a local expert, an attractive woman, who helps enlighten him. But it is Dan Brown’s real life wife who is the art historian and likely points the author toward little known aspects of even well known or familiar artifacts. Before the publication of Inferno a series of images were posted regularly to Dan Brown’s author page on Facebook and in a series called #MondayMasterpieces on Twitter.
Claire Jensen of Middlebury College has along with others commenting on Facebook identified the source of many of the images. Two artists have been singled out to date (March 11, 2013):Priamo della Quercia and Sandro Boticelli.

Several of the images were done as part of the illuminated manuscript known as the Yates Thompson 36 and are found in the British Library in London. The images for the Inferno are the work of Priamo della Quercia. The images are in the public domain at Wikimedia Commons.


Priamo della Quercia: Dante and Charon – Detail of a miniature of Dante being rowed by Charon across the River Acheron, from the closing lines of Canto III in the Inferno.


Priamo della Quercia: Traitors to Kindred – Detail of a miniature of Dante and Virgil witnessing the traitors in the frozen marsh, and Dante attempts to raise the traitor Bocca by his hair, while Ugolino sinks his teeth into the Archbishop Ruggieri’s head, in illustration of Canto XXXII.


Priamo della Quercia: Dante and Virgil – Detail of a miniature of Dante and Virgil being rowed across the river Styx by a demon rower, Phlegyas, and Dante and Virgil at the brazen gates of the city of Dis, in illustration of Canto VIII.


Canto IV Dante meets the four poets, Homer, Horace. Ovid and Lucan at the base of the seven walled castle.


Canto VIII Entrance into Dis Sandro Boticelli is responsibe for two of the images.


“”From the old bridge we looked down at the ranks
of those approaching from the other side;
they too were driven onward by the lash.””

Sandro Botticelli: Punishment of the Panderers and Seducers and the Flatterers. c.1480-1495.
The original is in the Vatican Library in Rome.

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Botticelli, Canto 15

Botticelli, the Florence born artist is also the creator of the iconic portrait of Dante. It’s mirror image will adorn the American dustcover of the novel.


The latest twist is the claim (not original to Brown) that perhaps the Mona Lisa is a man. The story ran in The Telegraph in 2011.

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