The Divine Comedy – an expose with the Creators of the Ground Breaking KS Campaign

THE DIVINE COMEDY – PRELUDE

Anyone who knows me even on an appearance only basis will probably be able to work out that I love books and tattoos almost as much as I love miniature painting and Art. Without doubt one of my favourite pieces of literature is The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri who was in Florence in 1265. My right arm is covered in tattoos, a “sleeve”, of the artwork by Gustav Dore depicting the various iconic characters from the first book Inferno. I have a portrait of Dante himself, along with Francesca and her lover, Geryon, King Minos, Cerberus, Ulysses and some others too. I would say three quarters of the arm is taken up and there are several other images I want to add including that of the winged Satan but the addition of children to our little family soon put paid to any cash I had available for tattoos! Below you can see the concept sketches by Stefano Moroni for the initial Kickstarter figures.

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You can therefore, imagine my excitement when I was told a while ago that Aradia Miniatures were going to be producing a series of miniatures based on the incredible Divine Comedy. The Kickstarter, click HERE, is going incredibly well in it’s first day and I am looking forward to seeing more about the various Stretch Goals, at the time of writing Ulysses was about to be revealed. I managed to tie the guys down to get some information straight from the horses’ mouth as it were and there is also plans to write some additional reviews once my pledge arrives!

THE DIVINE COMEDY

Abandon all hope ye who enter here – Gustav Dore

THE DIVINE COMEDY – LITERATURE REFERENCE

THE DIVINE COMEDY has been described as the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages and even as the “fifth gospel”, it is undoubtedly central to Western culture. It is a spiritual autobiography in the form of a journey as the poet Dante travels in the company of Virgil, through the realms of the dead, from the dark circles of the Inferno, up the mountain of Purgatory and eventually to Beatrice, his ideal woman, who guides him through Paradiso, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300.  This Kickstarter predominantly deals with those characters and events of the first part, Inferno.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) has often been called “the Father of the Italian language” and in Italy, Dante is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta (“the Supreme Poet”). Dante himself led an eventful life to say the least having fought in a war, was handsomely rich with estates in Florence but following a major power struggle was fined and exiled for the last twenty years of his life. During his exile he write the DIVINE COMEDY and died in 1321 shortly after completing Paradiso. He was an intensely active and intellectual man, with strong convictions and was committed to civic life, study and literature. He was convicted of defrauding the public moneys, a crime which is widely regarded as being fabricated by his political enemies, he was exiled and faced being burnt at the stake if he ever returned. 

At first glance, the poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise (Heaven) however, at a deeper level it represents allegorically, the soul’s journey towards God. Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy,  allegory was the prime mover for the creation of continuity between the ancient world and the “new” Christian world.

THE DIVINE COMEDY – DISCOURSE WITH THE CREATORS

The most difficult part at the beginning of this project has been the choice of the characters. This Kickstarter will launch the series and it was impossible to produce all of the characters which appeared throughout the text of the Comedy, there are so many fabulous figures in this literary masterpiece that would  lend themselves to being remade into beautiful miniatures!

First we have to say that some characters of the Comedy are not produced yet but, if this first wave of releases through Kickstarter have the deserved success we are hoping for, we will start very soon to produce the rest of the series.

You’re probably wondering how many figures you will find on the Kickstarter, which characters will be represented and in which scale they will be cast? The line will be in 75mm, there will be only one 32mm figure, a Kickstarter exclusive (available only during this campaign) and one bust scheduled as a stretch goal; for the moment.

There are five characters that will be unlocked if we are successful in reaching our target! 

DANTE AND VIRGIL

Our concept artist Stefano Moroni had done several sketches of the two main antagonists and finally we have chosen to unite the 2 characters in one unique composition (as you can see from the images). Dante is afraid, it looks like he doesn’t want to proceed in his travel but the reassuring figure of Virgil – his teacher/master – shows him the path to go. We really love this composition and how the wind (we can imagine that it’s blowing from the gate of Hell in front of the two characters) moves their clothes, especially the cloak of Virgil. We proposed this project to Roberto de Meo, a sculptor from Rome, more than one year ago and he was immediately enthusiastic to participate in this large project. This has been our first collaboration with Roberto and it was great: we’re sure that we’ll work together again in some future projects!

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CERBERUS 

The three-headed hound present in Greek and Roman mythology was the guardian to the very threshold of hell. We think that an Inferno without its guardian isn’t an Inferno! Dante encountered Cerberus within the third circle found within the Upper Hell, here we find those sinners guilty of Gluttony and it occurs during the VI Canto. As you can see from the beautiful concept and from the sculpture too, Stefano’s slightly altered the anatomy and positioning of the heads: in the classical representations of Cerberus the heads are located on the line of the shoulders but since we’re Aradia Miniatures and we love to re-invent new and fresh designs, presenting our own vision, we opted for this unusual alignment of the heads along the central line of the body: the result is excellent and Joaquin Palacios has imposed his master touch creating a sculpture more than 90mm in height.

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CHARON

The next character speaks for itself but we immediately knew we wanted to create something that was dynamic, incredibly old and a little rickety, this is the ferryman of souls, another theme from old Greek and Roman mythology, that to this day holds in modern Christianity. In the third Canto of Inferno, Dante and Virgil have to across the river Acheron and an old man goes to meet him, on a boat…

“And see, an old man, with white hoary locks,
came towards us in a boat, shouting: “Woe to you, wicked spirits!
Never hope to see heaven: I come to carry you to the other shore,
into eternal darkness, into fire and ice.
And you, who are there,
a living spirit, depart from those who are dead.”

Probably this is the most spectacular composition of this Kickstarter, sculpted by the talented Ali Jalali. The kit contains Charon, the boat, the river, the damned souls who are emerging from the gloomy waters of the Acheron. In essence it is a complete diorama where it isn’t necessary to add any other details, it’s simply ready for your inspiration, your interpretation, the strokes of your brush to bring this incredible piece to life!

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GORGON

During the IX Canto of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil, after fleeing the angry Furies/Erinnyes, also happen to meet the Gorgon: Medusa. Virgil warns Dante to keep his eyes closed and averted so as to negate the risk of falling under the stare of the Gorgon, for if he did there would remain no possibility to return to the world above. Everyone knows that the Gorgon, daughter of Forco and Ceto, was a creature comprised half snake and half woman who had the power to petrify anyone who gazed upon her.

And Yes, you’ll find the Gorgon on Dante’s Kickstarter! We have represented her as so many ancient texts have described her: winged (but they’re details very easy to remove for who will prefer to assemble and paint a Medusa without wings), dangerous, with a forbidden beauty and a head of snakes. She’s twisted upon the statue of some fearless warrior who has been less fortunate than Theseus… Pedro Fernandez, unquestionably one of the best sculptors, poured forth all of his skills and emotions in creating not only just another figure, but diorama ready to be painted!

“Turn back, and close thine eyes, for should the Gorgon reveal itself,
and thou behold the face, there ’d be no more returning up above.
The Teacher thus: and turning me himself,
on my hands he did not so far rely,
as not to close mine eyes with his as well”.

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PAOLO AND FRANCESCA

In addition we also have a Kickstarter exclusive in 32mm: the last figure that will be included if and when the campaign is funded, it is the whirlwind of lovers: the scale is 32mm but the whole scene, including the draped fabrics, is exactly 75mm in height!

Dante imagines the sinners of lust transported by cold wind (probably to contrast the hot fire who have moved them during the life) and tells about his meeting with Paolo and Francesca and their sad story.

You’re probably wondering why the hand of Francesca has a sword well, the story tells that Francesca was given in marriage to Gianciotto, brother of Paolo. Whilst Paolo was beautiful and intelligent his brother Gianciotto was ugly and widely considered to be suffering with his mental health. Francesca was desperate but accepted her fate. One day, while Gianciotto was out of their home and she was alone with Paolo, they started to read a book from Arthurian tales and when they arrived at the point where Lancillotto kisses Ginevra (the wife of King Arthur), they met their gaze and understood they loved each other. Just as is written in the Comedy “that day we read no more.” The chronicles tell that Gianciotto returned home and found the two lovers naked so he pierced them with his sword. It is this sword which Francesca is clutching in her hand, as if she could not abandon that memory even in the depths of hell.

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WHAT ELSE AWAITS IN THE CIRCLES OF HELL?

There will be some figures as stretch goals and something other such as alternative heads for characters, scenic elements, cards etc. For now we want to talk about the figures that you’ll find as stretch goals. The stretch-figures will total five, two of which are already digitally sculpted (we’ll print them only if they are unlocked) and three designed in 2D but whose sculptures are planned but not complete. With this in mind, if we unlock all stretch goals, those final three will be ready approximately within three months.

Even with ten figures we are nowhere near to exhausting the wealth of possibilities pertaining to the characters of The Divine Comedy however, we made the decision that we did not want our backers waiting an exceptionally long time for their pledges, so limited the total figures that would be cast for this campaign. The length of wait is always the biggest downside to any project when the figures are not already sculpted and since we want to ship all the rewards within the autumn of 2017, the decision was made.

But which characters you’re going to find as stretch goal?

DANTE ALIGHIERI: THE BUST

In a Kickstarter based on the masterwork of Dante, we really could not make room for the Poet himself and the best way to present him was clearly in bust form. It has been masterfully sculpted by Diego Rossetti and it will be the first stretch goal to unlock!

PATREON Access

The second stretch goal won’t be a figure but something very interesting for all the painters who want to improve their techniques: if we have reached this stretch goal, we’ll give the opportunity for all to follow for one, complete month our monthly tutorials on Patreon. The price will be frozen at just 1 dollar instead of the usual 10, which makes that months’ 3 hours of painting tutorials an absolute bargain.

8) Phlegethon

In Dante’s poem and in Greek and Roman mythology, Phlegeton is one of the four infernal rivers. Probably you have already realised our intentions, we want to represent these four rivers in demonic/human form and Phlegeton will be the first one. Dante during his travel, crosses each of the rivers (the 4th, Cocito, isn’t a real river but a frozen lake where Lucifer resides embedded in the ice). The 3D sculpt of Phlegethon is ready thanks to the impressive work of Ali Jalali: it’s an incredible demon and the kit includes a scenic base, once again for the readers of figurementors behold the awesome concept Art by Stefano Moroni!

THE DIVINE COMEDY

this image shows the level of conceptualism and brainstorming behind each design

9) Ulysses

One of our favourite Canti of “The Divine Comedy” is the XXVI CANTO of INFERNO, where Ulyses recites his tale directly to Dante. Ulysses speaks of his journey after his return home (so it’s a sort of continuation of the Odissea). He tells of his thirst for knowledge and that his desire to explore the world prompted him to take to the road, with some companions. They would explore beyond the limits that (so the ancient believed) the gods put on the earth: the Herculean columns (the Strait of Gibraltar, that open out onto the Ocean). He had convinced his loyal followers to follow him in this daring but prohibited enterprise however, their new exploration was short lived:

“we rejoiced; but soon our happiness
was turned to grief; for from the new-found land
a whirlwind rose, and smote our vessel’s prow
three times it made her whirl with all the waters
then at the fourth it made her stern go up,
and prow go down, even as Another pleased,
till over us the ocean’s waves had closed”.

Our concept artist Stefano Moroni has already designed the last moments of Ulysses: you can see the artwork below, at the time of writing this stretch goal had been reached,  and you won’t have long to see the sculpture either!

THE DIVINE COMEDY

an original take on the Ulyses charcater

SCENIC ELEMENTS

Before the campaign we have asked our customers what they would like as stretch goals (excluding characters) and most of them answered for alternative parts (such as heads which had already been scheduled) and scenic elements. For this reason we have added a scenic element as a stretch goal, it will be sculpted soon and it will be a good way to integrate the characters in a already planned and designed, custom built diorama. You’ll see it soon! 

Will there will be more stretch goals? Yes! but…they will be a surprise!

What could we add about this campaign? This is a very important project, we have worked hard for one year before launching it and fortunately, we worked with a good deal of fun. This Kickstarter is a real opportunity for all the painters and collectors because the prices of the figures are discounted from 35% to 50% compared to the future public price, so what are you waiting for, go pledge, choose your heroes and villains, see you in hell!

FINAL WORDS

Ok well the final words are from me, Jay, I am so excited about this project, there are truly very few story arcs or concepts that have been truly original in our little world of figure painting, yet you can always rely on Aradia Miniatures to think of something to challenge the trend. I have a good relationship with the company and three years after writing my first article about them, and one which they say kickstarted their career in figures, I am once again heavily involved once again. The guys are practically ever present at shows around Europe and are always so enthusiastic and happy to stop and talk about their creations and future plans. I am really looking forward to seeing some of these figures in real life and due to how they have planned their campaign we do not need to wait too long!

Jason Martin

Jason Martin is an award-winning painter, student of the arts and head honcho at Figurementors. His heavy metal listening, ex-forces exterior belies his true passion – to help you succeed on your personal journey to become a better figure painter.

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