Another illustration that induces shivers is Canto 12, which alludes to arrogance. Dali interpreted it by inventing a monstrous arachnidlike female. As the unsightly strumpet splays her spindly legs like a Hustler centerfold, Dante and Virgil cower behind her.
Each of the levels of purgatory through which Virgil guides Dante corresponds to one of the deadly sins. During the journey, they encounter the proud, who are purged by carrying giant stones on their backs; the envious, whose eyes are sewn shut; and the lustful, who are burning in a wall of flame.
The Divine Comedy: Through January 31. Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-237-7186, mdc.edu. Tuesday through Friday noon to 5 p.m. Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The illustrations of paradise are the most stunning. In Canto 13, Dante and his beloved Beatrice appear together in the sun. Dali paints Dante in front of a crucified Christ as Beatrice kneels, venerating the vision. The scene in this otherworldly image is a metaphor for light as a vehicle of creation.
Dali's scenes of paradise are all the more striking for his ecstatic celebration of color and his ethereal, biblical figures. Unfortunately, making sense of the rich symbolism isn't always easy. But it's well worth the effort.
"We are hoping visitors will become inspired by Dali's exhibition to learn more about Dante and The Divine Comedy and experience the surrealist nature of both their contributions," Gutierrez prays.