Dante’s Heavenly Legacy

Larger Than Life: Art that inspires us through the ages
May 11, 2021 Updated: May 11, 2021

Nearly 700 years ago, in September 1321, the Italian literary great Dante Alighieri died.  

Dante wrote poetry and important theoretical works on a wide range of topics, including moral philosophy and political thought. For his works, he drew inspiration from the ancient classics by writers such as Virgil and Cicero

In Florence, Dante sat on the Council of Priors, a position of high governance. His opposition to the pope’s annexing of Tuscan land led eventually to his being sentenced to death if he were to set foot in Florence again.

It is believed that Dante wrote most of his best works, including “The Divine Comedy,” his most famous, when he was in exile. Rather fittingly, a commemorative exhibition called “Dante: The Vision of Art” recently opened at the San Domenico Museums of Forlì, in northern Italy, the very town that Dante fled to in 1302, from Arezzo (80 miles southeast of Florence). 

The exhibition is a joint collaboration of The Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the Cassa dei Risparmi of the Forlì Foundation. 

The exhibition draws together around 300 artworks from world-class museum collections across the globe. The Uffizi Galleries alone have contributed some 50 works, including famous portraits of the poet and a set of drawings by Michelangelo.

It’s an unprecedented exhibition, both in scale and scope, demonstrating Dante’s influence on art from the 13th century right through to the 20th century and how he inspired artists from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Romantic eras.

“It’s the first time through the centuries you’ll see the importance and visual fortune of not only the ‘Divine Comedy,’ but really all the literary production of the great poet. We’ll even zoom in on the most famous and important Dante characters through the centuries,” the director of The Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, said in a press video interview.

Included in the exhibition are first editions of “The Divine Comedy.” Highlights also include many visual interpretations of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, the work’s three sections. The exhibition ends with images of Heaven inspired by Paradise Canto XXXIII.

The exhibition “Dante: The Vision of Art,” at the San Domenico Museums in Forlì, runs until July 11. To find out more, visit MostraDante.it

Dante
Portraits of Italian literary greats (L) Giovanni Boccaccio and Dante, by Andrea del Castagno, and texts by Dante or inspired by him are among some of the approximately 300 works at the “Dante: The Vision of Art” exhibition. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“Farinata of the Urberti,” 1901–1903, by Carlo Fontana. Marble; 72.8 inches by 41.3 inches by 36.2 inches. The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“Cain,” 1902, by Domenico Trentacoste. Bronze; 43.7 inches by 35 inches by 37.4 inches. The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
Portrait of Dante Alighieri, circa 1560, by Cristofano dell’Altissimo. Oil on panel; 23.6 inches by 17.3 inches. The Gioviana Collection, The Uffizi Galleries, Florence. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
A sketch of Paradise, 1588–1592, by Tintoretto. Oil on canvas; 59 inches by 177.2 inches. Intesa Sanpaolo Collection, on loan at the Querini Stampalia Foundation in Venice, Italy. (Intesa Sanpaolo Collection)
Dante
“St. Dominic’s Blessing,” 1498–1505, by Sandro Botticelli. Oil and tempera on canvas (transferred from panel); 17.2 inches by 10,2 inches. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. (The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)
Dante
“Paolo and Francesca Surprised by Gianciotto,” 1819, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Oil on canvas; 19.8 inches by 16 inches. Museum of Fine Arts, Angers, France. (Museum of Fine Arts, Angers)
Dante
“Dante in Exile,” circa 1860, by Domenico Petarlini. Oil on canvas; 29.9 inches by 37.8 inches. Gallery of Modern Art, Pitti Palace, The Uffizi Galleries, Florence. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“Dante Alighieri Presenting Giotto to Guido Novello da Polenta,” 1855, by Giovanni Mochi. Oil on canvas; 33.3 inches by 42.5 inches. Gallery of Modern Art, Pitti Palace, The Uffizi Galleries, Florence. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“Dante Reads ‘The Divine Comedy’ at the Court of Guido Novello,” 1850, by Andrea Pierini. Oil on canvas; 55.1 inches by 72 inches. Gallery of Modern Art, Pitti Palace, The Uffizi Galleries, Florence. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“Charon. The Earthquake and the Swoon” from “Inferno,” Canto III, circa 1585–1588, by Federico Zuccari. Charcoal and red chalk on paper; 17.6 inches by 24.2 inches. Department of Prints and Drawings, The Uffiizi Galleries, Florence. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“The Rape of Ganymede,” after 1533, traditionally attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti. Charcoal on paper; 7 inches by 9.8 inches. (Fabio Blaco/The Uffizi Galleries)
Dante
“The Meeting of Paolo and Francesca,” 1810, by Nicola Mónti. Oil on canvas; 66 inches by 47.6 inches. The Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy. (The Uffizi Galleries, Florence, Italy)
Dante
“Final Judgement,” 1425–1430, by Fra Angelico. Tempera on panel; 41.3 inches by 82.7 inches. St. Mark’s Museum, Florence. (St. Mark’s Museum, Florence)
Dante
Coronation of the Virgin between the Angels and Saints (the Baroncelli Polyptych), after 1328, by Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi. Tempera and gold on wood; 72.4 inches by 126.4 inches by 11.4 inches. The Basilica of the Holy Cross, Florence. (The Basilica of the Holy Cross, Florence)
Dante
“Transfiguration,”1511–1512, by Lorenzo Lotto. Oil on panel; 119 inches by 83.5 inches. Villa Colloredo Mels Civic Museum, Recanati, Italy. (Villa Colloredo Mels Civic Museum, Recanati)
Dante
“Dante,” 1865, by Vincenzo Vela. Plaster; 62.8 inches by 19,4 inches by 21.4 inches. The Vincenzo Vela Museum, Ligornetto, Switzerland (property of the Swiss Confederation). (The Vincenzo Vela Museum, Ligornetto)