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At the end of The Divine Comedy, Dante is guided through Heaven by Beatrice, his ideal woman. Here she is surrounded by the four apostles, depicted as embodiments of the symbolic animals with which they are traditionally associated. Luke resembles an ox, a creature Lavater described as severe and simple, while Mark appears as a lion, which Lavater saw as strong and bold. John has the face of an eagle, which, according to Lavater, means he ‘must be a brave man’. Matthew is shown as a man with idealised, Christ-like features that seem to echo those of Beatrice.

March 2011