Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Francis Bruguière (American, 1875-1945)
Lighted model ("Light from above") for Divine Comedy
Ca. 1924
Gelatin silver print

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Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 69, Divine Comedy, 1921-1930

Summary: Bel Geddes's never-realized staging of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy was the most significant early example of his career-long attempts to create emotionally rich experiences in the theater. Favoring abstraction over realism, the play grounded his work within the theories and practices of Expressionism. In the 1910s and 1920s Expressionism influenced the visual arts, architecture, music, and the theater. Its creators distorted reality so that the outside objective world was colored by the artist’s subjective emotions, conveying the psychological depths beneath the surface of reality.

Geddes’s dramatization, design, and production script of Divine Comedy was to be performed in Madison Square Garden in 1921 to celebrate the sexcentenary of Dante’s death. When the performance did not happen, Geddes published A Project for a Theatrical Presentation of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri in 1924. He also designed a theater specifically to house a newly-proposed production for the 1933-1934 Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago (see job 147), but this project was not realized either.

Hunter Code: DS 1
Hunter Guide: page 91


(click image for description)

Box/Location Folder Description
theater box 80 a 1 Model --- Photographs of stage model.
theater box 80 a 2 Model --- Specifications - "Numbering System for Models".
flat file b 1 Scene Renderings --- "The earth opens and in the sulphurous green of the inferno Dante and Virgil descend," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 2 Scene Renderings --- "At the beginning of his search for infinity, Dante is stopped by the three beasts," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 3 Scene Renderings --- "Above Dante and Virgil winged creatures in yellow light, and in the shadows the damned emerge," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 4 Scene Renderings --- "Dante talks with the condemned souls across the orange-lit pit of hell," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 5 Scene Renderings --- "Circles of agonizing souls and immense wavering shadows in a glare of crimson," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 6 Scene Renderings --- "Purgatory in atmosphere of blue and violet, "Even the rocks seem to be angels," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 7 Scene Renderings --- "In a path of blue-white light Beatrice steps down from her chariot to meet Dante," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 8 Scene Renderings --- "Beatrice and Dante ascend in blinding light from purgatory to heaven," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 9 Scene Renderings --- "Dante meets with three beasts," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 10 Scene Renderings --- "The eyes of the beast divide and subdivide," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 11 Scene Renderings --- "Dante standing on the wall," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 12 Scene Renderings --- "Dante and Virgil prepare to descend," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 13 Scene Renderings --- "The forms droop, crumble and collapse into the chasm," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 14 Scene Renderings --- "The ground begins to rise and move," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 15 Scene Renderings --- "The movement is the convulsion of decayed humanity," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 16 Scene Renderings --- "Dante and the pair of lovers," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 17 Scene Renderings --- "The Multitude challenges the passage of a Living One to the depths," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 18 Scene Renderings --- "O! Thou sweet light upon this novel journey do thou lead me," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 19 Scene Renderings --- "Beatrice appears in a bolt of light," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 20 Scene Renderings --- "Dante emerges from inferno to purgatory," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 21 Scene Renderings --- "The light has risen and divided itself more, revealing towers," sanguine chalk (1 of 2).
flat file b 22 Scene Renderings --- "The light has risen and divided itself more, revealing towers," sanguine chalk (2 of 2).
flat file b 23 Scene Renderings --- "Dante sees a vision of Beatrice," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 24 Scene Renderings --- "Dante meets Beatrice," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 25 Scene Renderings --- "Virgil reassures Dante," sanguine chalk.
flat file b 26 Scene Renderings --- "The earth-forms rise in groups and divide," watercolor.
flat file b 27 Scene Renderings --- "A winged figure jumps over his head," watercolor.
flat file b 28 Scene Renderings --- "Two winged guardians of Purgatory," watercolor.
flat file b 29 Scene Renderings --- "Dante meets Beatrice," watercolor.
flat file b 30 Scene Renderings --- "Dante and Virgil watch the winged harpies across the chasm," charcoal.
oversize box 20 e 1-6 Preliminary Sketches --- Scenes and stage settings.
flat file e 7-10 Preliminary Sketches --- Sanguine and pencil sketches.
theater box 80 e 11 Preliminary Sketches --- List of subjects for sketches and compositions.
flat file e 12 Preliminary Sketches --- Sketches of stage.
flat file f 1 Drawings --- Sketch 001, Plan of stage.
flat file f 2 Drawings --- Drawing 1, Plan of stage adapted to Madison Square Garden.
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 3 Drawings --- Drawing 3, Model of stage, half plan of steps (encapsulated, 39 x 73 1/2 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 4 Drawings --- Drawing 4, Model of stage, front elevation (encapsulated, 33 1/2 x 67 3/4 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 5 Drawings --- Drawing 6, Model of stage, half plan of foundation (encapsulated, 37 1/2 x ca. 75 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 6 Drawings --- Drawing 7, Model of stage, section along line A-M (encapsulated, 33 x 74 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 7 Drawings --- Drawing 8, Model of stage, section of stage along line C-P (encapsulated, 33 3/4 x 72 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 8 Drawings --- Drawing 9, Model of stage, section of stage on line E-R (encapsulated, 34 x ca. 75 inches).
oversize flat files, drawer 3 f 9 Drawings --- Drawing 10, Model of stage, section of stage on line G-T (encapsulated, 33 3/4 x 73 1/4 inches).
theater box 80 g 0 Production Scripts --- Production record book title pages.
theater box 80 g 1 Production Scripts --- A Project for a Theatrical Presentation of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1924), copy 1.
Book Collection g 2-3 Production Scripts --- Copies 2 and 3, cataloged as monographs in Theatre Arts Library.
theater box 80 g 4 Production Scripts --- Typed ms. with autograph revisions of A Project ...
flat file g 5 Production Scripts --- Timed script outline of first 30 minutes of production.
oversize box 20 g 6 Production Scripts --- Original notes on sixty minutes of production.
oversize box 21 g 7 Production Scripts --- Page showing twenty-first minute.
theater box 80 h 2 Photographs --- Photograph Record Book by Bruguière.
oversize box 21 h 3 Photographs --- 27 Photographs of sanguine drawings of scenes.
theater box 81 h 4 Photographs --- Captions.
flat file h 5 Photographs --- Stage set (Bruguière #407).
flat file h 6 Photographs --- Stage set (Bruguière #409).
flat file h 7 Photographs --- "Earth half opens" (Bruguière).
flat file h 8 Photographs --- "Soldiers of Dis" (Bruguière #13).
flat file h 9 Photographs --- "Sobbing bodies emerge" (Bruguière).
flat file h 10 Photographs --- "Winged figure jumps over Dante" (Bruguière).
flat file h 11 Photographs --- "Rain of fire" (Bruguière #103).
flat file h 12 Photographs --- "Dante emerges from Inferno to Purgatory" (Bruguière #30).
flat file h 13 Photographs --- "Ascent of Dante in sphere of eternal light" (Bruguière #21).
flat file h 14 Photographs --- "Light from above" (Bruguière).
flat file h 15 Photographs --- "Dante meets Beatrice" (Bruguière).
flat file h 16 Photographs --- "Final scene: Paradise" (Bruguière #3).
theater box 81 h 17-18 Photographs --- Photos of masks.
theater box 81 h 19 Photographs --- 28 Prints for publication.
negative box 54 h 20a-b Photographs --- Negatives of masks and Soldiers of Dis. [10 damaged] [nitrate]
theater box 81 h 21 Photographs --- List of photos.
flat file h 22-28 Photographs --- Photos of scene renderings.
theater box 81 h 29 Photographs --- Photo and explanation of model.
oversize box 21 h 30 Photographs --- Model stage.
flat file h 31-36 Photographs --- Model stage (continued).
oversize box 21 h 37 Photographs --- Model stage (continued).
flat file h 38 Photographs --- Model stage (continued).
theater box 81 h 39 Photographs --- HRC copy photos.
theater box 81 h 40 Photographs --- HRC copy photos of drawings, renderings, sketches, and models; 1 negative of a plan and elevation.
theater box 81 i 1 Publicity --- Articles and reviews, 1922-1930.
theater box 82 i 9 Publicity --- Articles and reviews, 1922-1930 (continued).
flat file i 6 Publicity --- Photostat of clipping 1924.
theater box 82 j 1 Correspondence --- NBG - Aline Barnsdall, James Byrne, Edward Gordon Craig, Arthur Farwell, Edith J.R. Isaacs, Otto H. Kahn, Roger H. Sessions et al.
theater box 82 k 1-2 Script --- Annotated volume of Divine Comedy translated by C. E. Norton. Second copy.
oversize box 21 n 1 Blueprints of sketch stage plan.
theater box 83 n 2-3 Photocopies of timed script (g 5).
theater box 83 n 4 Photocopy of Norton Divine Comedy volume (k 1).
flat file o 1 Cost estimates, 1926, undated.
theater box 83 p 1 Production Specifications --- Outline of action.
theater box 83 p 2 Production Specifications --- Key to actors.
theater box 83 p 3 Production Specifications --- Distribution of earth forms.
flat file q 1 Source Material --- Inferno diagram.
theater box 83 y 1-2 Autobiography draft and notes with commentary.

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