JF Ptak Science Books Post 1920
The interesting thing about Hell--Dante's Hell--is that it has been shown and reconstructed and imagined for a long time--eight centuries--and, outside of painting, most of the representations seem to be in cross-section. That is why this image from the famous exposition by Alessandro Vellutello's 1544 struck me so strongly--it is a mostly straight-down look at the miserly and the prodigal in the fourth circle of Hell.
"… I saw multitudes
to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?' --Canto VII, lines 25-30
This image depicts the great, tiring but tire-less, endless, despicable joust of the miserly and the prodigals, going at each other with large, difficult-to-move stones. Pluto is supposed to be in the middle, but I don't see him here. The artist though has made the men basically unrecognizable, giving them little character to their faces and virtually no differences in their bodies--Virgil tells Dante that they have lost themselves to something else, that there is no "there" there, that Dante--who would normally speak with the people he was coming into contact with--would not be able to interview them as they were too absorbed in their vicious need.
As has been seen in the many maps constructed for the Divine Comedy over the years--but especially during the Renaissance--Hell for Dante was a real place, a nine-layered inverted cone of measured depth and width commensurate with the sin, and established under the city of Jerusalem. Dante visited the place
"... but who art thou
That hast inquir'd of us?" To whom my guide:
"One that descend with this man, who yet lives,
From rock to rock, and show him hell's abyss." (Inferno XXIX, 89–92, trans. Cary)
entering Hell on Good Friday and emerging from Purgatory on Easter morning, taking three days to travel through the two places and straight through the center of the Earth.
Here are a few examples of the cross sections that are the great standard bearers of Dante's visions:
The Hell of Dante by Pietro da Fino, 1568:
The circles of Hell from Commedia di Dante insieme con uno dialogo circa el sito, forma et misure dello Inferno by Filippo Giunta, Florence, 1506.
Again, just a few examples of the cross sections of Hell to contrast with the scarce looking-straight-down-at-Hell image above.