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Cannibal Count Ugolino
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By scifo   |   Watch
Published: September 3, 2011
© 2011 - 2019 scifo
Count Ugolino della Ghererdesca was accused of one of the more heinous crimes in Italian history. The alleged crime took place in the Pisa of 1289, but we all know that Italians and art and literary historians take a longer view.

The known facts are as follows. The Count was a leader of Pisa's Guelph (pro-Papal) faction in the seemingly interminable internecine battles that consumed all the northern Italian cities in those days. Ugolino had earlier conspired with the local Archbishop, Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, to come to power in the predominantly Ghibelline (pro-Holy Roman Emperor) city. But, as might have been expected in times of constantly shifting alliances, and with a change of Popes, Ruggieri had switched sides leaving Ugolino undefended. The Guelphs were routed, and Ugolino, along with two sons and two grandsons (nephews, in some versions of the story), were imprisoned in Gualandi Tower, one of the medieval towers overlooking Piazza dei Cavalieri, which is still the central Piazza of Pisa. On orders from the Archbishop, they were all starved to death, and, since then, the tower has been called Torre della Fame, the Tower of Hunger.

Exactly what happened in the tower has never really been known, but it wasn't long before rumors surfaced that, to save his own life, Count Ugolino had devoured the younger men as they died one by one. Dante, in Canto 33 of his Inferno meets the Count in the lowest level of hell and discusses the case. According to Dante, Ugolino explains his presence in this deepest pit: he admitted that he had eaten his kin, having allowed his own desire to survive to overcome any gustatory scruples. Dante finds Ugolino gnawing on a skull, and Ugolino says that it is the skull of Ruggieri, the erstwhile friend who had betrayed and imprisoned him. Based on his own literary admission, Count Ugolino has come down through history as the Cannibal Count.
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dofaust's avatar
Another very powerful work!
It would almost be better without the
explication, leaving the viewer to
do their own research, etc... no matter...
- a very-likely enduring work!
scifo's avatar
scifo Traditional Artist
Yes, ma é you'rwelcome right. Thanks for your suggestion
dofaust's avatar
Art is often indistinguishable from politics and intellectual history.
In most ways, the oh-so-kind enterprise and the 13th century
Italian Zeitgeist are irrevocably melded and intertwined.
In the aftermath of this gruesome story, I am sure that officers in the oh-so-kind
enterprise instructed their soldiers to spin the story
so that the Jews would get the blame, since they were well-known
already to be attracted to Christian blood for their ceremonies.
I do not  think that I am exaggerating much... that said,
this work by one of DA's most accomplished artists
obviously transcends all the centuries of sordid (and worse)
behavior by the oh-so-kind enterprise; despite the trappings of 
13th cent Italy...this is a more timeless scene...
ClairObscur16's avatar
Che straordinaria pittura! Vecchia? Mi fa pensare à Zurbaran e Goya. Che illustrazione per l'Inferno di Dante! Il contrasto fra la pelle del'huomo e quella dei fancuilli è sorprendente.
TheHuntingAccident's avatar
TheHuntingAccidentProfessional Artist
scifo's avatar
scifo Traditional Artist
thank you for comment
ChadComics's avatar
ChadComicsHobbyist Digital Artist
natenutron's avatar
natenutronHobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the history lesson. I enjoyed it. For the art, it looks good. I would have liked to scene a face of starvation.
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scifo Traditional Artist
:) thanks......
tastybedsore's avatar
tastybedsoreProfessional General Artist
such and a dark and twisted story. and the art is cool too!
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scifo Traditional Artist
metztligen's avatar
metztligenProfessional General Artist
i like your dark stories :)
and those freaky illustrations with it completes it
thnx :)
scifo's avatar
scifo Traditional Artist
:) I'm glad you enjoy my art
jflaxman's avatar
Great work. I read Inferno way back in the summer of 2001, while working night shift at a gas station with no air conditioning. I allowed myself one canto per night. It's a work that really grows on you, and remains one of my favourites to this day. Do you think you'll illustrate more from it?
scifo's avatar
scifo Traditional Artist
ciao thanks. I've made different pieces form Dante's Divina Commedia in particular Inferno. This is a recent work about Phlegias (Caronte)

Curious-Spider's avatar
Curious-SpiderHobbyist Writer
Utterly gorgeous. I thought I recognized that name; I knew him from Dante.
wingsofdragons's avatar
wingsofdragonsHobbyist Photographer
what a story.......lovely painting........lovely light ......flowing .
RoadstoDeath's avatar
RoadstoDeathProfessional Digital Artist
ty for sharing this w us at #dA-Morgue and i loved reading your notes on this! As odd as it sounds i find this kind of history fascinating ;)
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scifo Traditional Artist
I'm glad you appreciate it :)
Szabrina's avatar
SzabrinaStudent Traditional Artist
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scifo Traditional Artist
thanks Szabrina!!! :)
jennymajeske's avatar
jennymajeske Traditional Artist
fascinating story, thanks. i wouldn't have picked up on the more sinister connatations of the pice without it.
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