Uffizi Gallery in Florence unveils barely known illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

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Why is Dante Alighieri so famous and highly regarded?

In 2021, we mark seven hundred years since the loss of one of the symbols of literature and Humanism, and arguably the greatest and most influential poet of the Western world - Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 – 1321). It would be a difficult task for one to find an educated person that hasn't heard of that name and that's not a result made by an elaborated marketing strategy. In fact, Dante wasn't so popular among his contemporaries and the following epoch. His best-known work – Divine comedy – was considered too "medieval", tragical, and rough for the standards demanded by the rigorous and Classical Greece oriented criteria of the Renaissance. It was during the Romantic era, centuries later, that Dante was re-discovered and awed as one of the most important foundations for establishing the universe of Literature as we know it today. Along with Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante was one of the first poets who published in vernacular language instead of Latin, which was the common one among the scholars and intellectuals at that time. In 13th-14th century Europe that was regarded as a revolution and indeed, it was. For, it made it possible for ordinary people to read and learn in their mother tongue, and not long after that, it gave confidence to them to create and express themselves in their natural verbal patterns.

Dante's legacy

Maybe, as modern people, we underestimate this courageous act but the truth is - it boasted all around Europe that Latin is no more the Queen of literacy and a new epoch is coming, where the individual's voice should be listening to. Dante wrote a treatise De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular), in which he was advocating the use of vernacular languages, and demonstrating that every language has its own beauty, expressiveness, and power, thus inspiring later authors as Petrarch. Ultimately, Dante was one of the liberators of the multi-foliated fantasy of literature and philosophy from the tyranny of the Latin language. He is also honored for the establishment of the modern Italian language, which is based on Tuscany, and more specifically, on the Florentine dialect. If we take the perspective on a larger scale, Dante's legacy resulted in the great variety of national literature that we are familiar with. Moreover, Dante's Divine Comedy inspired a vast body of Art all around the globe, including various spheres as fine art, music, critical texts, poetry, and many more. 

Frederico Zuccari's Illustration of Divine Comedy

This year the Uffizi gallery unveils an online exposition of Divine Comedy drawing by the mannerist painter Federico Zuccari. Whereas we are all familiar with Gustave Doré's ingenious illustrations, these mesmerizing pictures were scarcely known. As Uffizi director Eike Schmidt says: "So far, these beautiful drawings have been seen by [only] a few scholars and only partly shown in public twice," adding: "[This is] precious material not only for those doing research but also for those who are passionate about Dante's work and interested in following, as Alighieri says, [ideas around] virtue and knowledge." Luckily, Zuccari's drawings made between 1586 and 1588 are now open to the public on the gallery's website.

The online exhibition is called To See the Stars Again (A riveder le stelle). All of Zuccari's illustrations of Divina commedia have been rendered in high definition, and "organized as a journey in stages that allows viewers to admire them for the first time in their entirety and in detail".

No matter if you are a meticulous connoisseur or just an art enthusiast, now you are able to experience the mystical Imaginarium of Dante's Divine Comedy from yet another different perspective.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

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