“See My Heart”: Art and Alchemical Reasoning, or Character Transformation in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal

Anna Krawczyk-Łaskarzewska

Published Online: 2017-11-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0027


Works of art seem to be used more and more frequently in scripted TV shows nowadays. Most often, they constitute a symbolic point of reference, an intertextual “interlude,” or merely a convenient plot device. However, Bryan Fuller’s 2013 TV series Hannibal goes beyond the stereotypical functions of art, using it as a sort of intermediary between literary and televisual fantasies and elevating its narrative status. It can even be argued that works of art in Hannibal constitute the key element to understanding character development and transmutation in the three seasons of the show. This article focuses on the ramifications of making Sandro Botticelli’s ever-elusive Primavera a striking aspect of Hannibal’s third season. Fuller foregrounds the painting’s motif of becoming in order to repurpose the literary franchise and its cinematic offshoots. As a result, a more in-depth portrayal of its principal characters is offered, together with their unending, but ultimately incomplete alchemical cycle of purification, “fiery love,” rebirth and death: stages representing the “enlightenment and perfection” (Gillies, Botticelli’s Primavera 133) of human souls. Alongside other masterpieces displayed in the series, Primavera helps destabilise the confines of the televisual medium and of the horror genre, while at the same time demonstrating the complexity of transmedial connections and influences.

Keywords: alchemyartcycleinterpretationtransmedializationtransmutationTV

Featured Image Credits: Hannibal (NBC) | Vide Cor Meum | Hannibal/Will 2015 |  © Courtesy of  vimeo

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