2010, Oil on Linen, 112 x 112cm

Dante’s Inferno describes Hell as nine layers, each more terrible than the last. They are, Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice and Prodigality, Wrath and Sullenness, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and finally, Betrayal. 

That Dante considered betrayal to be the ultimate sin, worse than murder and tyranny, is partly self-evident by some of the inhabitants of the ninth layer, notably Cain and Judas Iscariot, but may also be explained by Dante’s own life. 

Although a native of Florence, the epic poem was written in Ravenna in approximately 1315 at a time when Dante’s career and political ambitions had been thwarted by various intrigues and treachery, which had resulted in the seizure of his assets and his being condemned to perpetual exile. With the threat of being burned at the stake should he return (indeed, the city council of Florence finally passed a motion rescinding Dante’s sentence only in 2008), he was never rehabilitated in his own life. And although Florence built a tomb for his remains in 1829, it remains poignantly empty to this day.