January 2, 2021

"Eighty-eight rarely seen drawings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy have been put on virtual display as Italy begins a year-long calendar of events to mark the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death."

"The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are being exhibited online, for free, by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 'Until now these beautiful drawings have only been seen by a few scholars and displayed to the public only twice, and only in part,' said Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi’s director. 'Now they are published in full, alongside a didactic-scientific comment, where from [Friday] they will be freely available.'" 

The Guardian lets us know. Go here for all the artwork and the "didactic-scientific comment."

55 comments:

Michael said...

Awesome. Thanks Althouse.

tcrosse said...

Of special interest is that circle of Hell to which Dante assigned all those who mispronounced "bruschetta".

Rob said...

You’d think they were the only museum to make their collection available for free. Greedy bastards.

CWJ said...

Althouse. Thanks for the link! I never would have encountered this without you.

Fernandinande said...

Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Isn't that where Dr. Lecter defenestrated and disemboweled the greedy Italian policeman?

mockturtle said...

My SIL sent me those yesterday and I was elated. And a good time to be talking about the Inferno...

Robert Cook said...

I just took a quick glance at the drawings: they're magnificent! I saw the show of Michelangelo's drawings that was mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, and, while they are technical marvels, they are also too often too much. I prefer these drawings by far!

The painting you post as the signboard for this post reminds me somehow of the work of William Bailey, a great contemporary American painter who died in the last year, though Bailey's work was primarily concerned with imaginary still lifes.

(A subset of his ouevre consisted of drawings and occasional paintings of female nudes.)

I think the color palette, the paint handling, and the sense of stillness of the painting you include here are what I see in common with Bailey's work.

(I call Bailey's still lifes "imaginary" because, although he did have in his studio the various dishes, vases, water vessels, etc., that he paints, but he did not set them up in arrangements and draw or paint from them. He invented the groupings and drew and painted them from his head.)

stlcdr said...

Since we ain’t going to museums and art galleries anymore, because our betters have decided we aren’t allowed, is there any reason to not put all artwork stored away in these galleries/museums online?

I like the Mona Lisa just like the next man (as in, I can’t see what all the fuss is about) but it would be nice to see art which is ‘pretty interesting’ based on our own decisions and interpretations, rather than what others think.

Kate said...

I've been to the Uffizi. One of the world's most famous galleries and I have no memory of what I saw there. "Room With A View" shot its fainting scene around the piazza there. I remember that sequence more than I remember the actual gallery.

William said...

I have never read Dante. Am I missing something? I feel I might be. I have read enough of Paradise Lost to know it's not for me. Milton, not Paradise.
I've never even considered reading Erasmus or Bunyan, but I feel vaguely guilty about not even attempting Dante......Shakespeare and Cervantes are worth the effort. They're not a chore, but they don't offer the inside skinny on how to get to heaven.

William said...

Why should Hell be a place where the punishments are perfectly calibrated to the offenses? That's not in keeping with the true spirit of Hell. Hell should be a place where some of the greatest sinners suffer from plantar fascitis and the overeaters or chronic masturbators have hot tar poured on the offending orifices while they get to see Orson Welles or Jeffrey Epstein live in splendor. Hell if it is truly Hell should be unfair and corrupt where punishments are handed out randomly and not according to merit.

Narr said...

My wife wanted to go to the Uffizi, but myfizzi were killing me.

Just kidding--I've been to Rome (two nights? 11 y.o.) and Venice (three nights, grown) but never to Florence. It's on the list, but this is probably as close as I'll get.

The guy I took Medieval and Renaissance history from was a yuge Florence and Dante fan, but his enthusiasms weren't mine. (I was a pet of his anyway, 'cause I knew who Douglas MacArthur and Friedrich Nietzsche were already.)

Narr
That put me in the top 1% right there

Lurker21 said...


Dante looks sad.

Like Santa Claus and the Booze Fairies forgot about him this year.

Joe Smith said...

Some pretty nice doodles you got there...

Owen said...

William @ 10:16: "I have never read Dante. Am I missing something?" Dude! I think you will love it. Certainly "Inferno," because it is such terrifying fun to see all the sinners suffering their appropriate punishments. Dante was making a political and social argument and settling scores and world-building and defending his faith and many other things. It's absolutely a trip and a chance to soak up the 14th C mindset and a whole lot of amazing poetry. I studied it as part of learning Italian and after you adjust to the "dialect" (a bit like learning Middle English) and his poetic compression and inversion etc, it is very readable and SUPER evocative.

Do give it a go.

Tomcc said...

Perhaps I missed something; the only comment I could see was "English version is upcoming".
Nonetheless, an interesting way to start the day! Thank you, Professor.

wholelottasplainin' said...

My first thought was: what's Jesse Pinkman doing looking like a medieval Italian?

D.D. Driver said...

I've been to the Uffizi. One of the world's most famous galleries and I have no memory of what I saw there.

Then I say, what about The Birth of Venus. And as I recall, I think we both kind of liked it.

Honestly, "The Birth of Venus" might be my favorite "live act" work of art--i.e., something that doesn't really make any impression until you see it in person.

Joe Smith said...

"Of special interest is that circle of Hell to which Dante assigned all those who mispronounced "bruschetta"."

Hopefully the worst one...

"I like the Mona Lisa just like the next man..."

I think old Mona was the first transgender.

Saw 'Starry Night' from about 3 feet away ten years or so ago...no glass.

One of the most incredibly beautiful things I will ever see in my life. The painting seemed to actually glow. Spectacular.

Joe Smith said...

"My first thought was: what's Jesse Pinkman doing looking like a medieval Italian?"

Cookin' up a little somethin' somethin'.

It wasn't all wine and cheese 24/7...

YoungHegelian said...

I see the Uffizi doin' what they need to do to tip-toe around the level of Hell for the Sodomites.

And they really waltz around Canto XXVIII where Dante puts Mohammad in Hell as a schismatic, split open from, as James Thruber puts it, "from his zatch to his guggle".

Modern political realities bump uncomfortably into historical scholarship. How dare those Ancients not see the world as we Moderns do !

Chuck said...

Gorgeous blog post. Thank you so very much.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

YoungHegelian,

But the Sodomites are the location of one of the most poignant vignettes in the Inferno, where Dante meets his old mentor Brunetto Latini.

Mohammed is perfectly visible in the schismatics' Canto, I missed Ali, who occasioned the Sunni/Shi'a split, but Bertrand de Born is there, headless, carrying his head like a lantern.

I have all of the Commedia in Mandelbaum's translation, and know the Inferno pretty well, but the book that really fell to pieces (literally) is the Purgatorio. There's so much in there, even in a logistical sense. "Ante-Purgatory" takes up practically half the book, and the Earthly Paradise another large chunk.

Paradiso is, necessarily, more mystical, and the imagery is at times difficult to follow.

Dante bends corners all the time, even to the point of having one person he very much wanted to see in the Ninth Circle of Hell put there even though, at the time of writing, the guy is still alive: Branca Doria, in Ptolemea. Apparently, just for that subcircle, once the sin is committed, a demon takes over your body and you yourself are already in Hell. This makes nonsense of the idea that any sin might be forgiven before death (though not without cost: the late-repentant make up most of the population of Ante-Purgatory).

narciso said...

one of the fascinating twists, of I pilgrim was a plot point where the protagonist, scott murdoch, uses the mirror polishing facilities of Uffizi, to develop evidence which reveals the perpetrator of the crime, at the core of the novel,

YoungHegelian said...

@MDT,

But the Sodomites are the location of one of the most poignant vignettes in the Inferno, where Dante meets his old mentor Brunetto Latini.

True dat. It's a vivid reminder for Dante & us that the harshness of God's Justice will touch those for whom we care if they remain unrepentant. It is a harsh lesson for us, not only because of the victim in this case being simply homosexual, but on general principle. There is the response of "What'd this old fart do to deserve this"?

I have all of the Commedia in Mandelbaum's translation, and know the Inferno pretty well, but the book that really fell to pieces (literally) is the Purgatorio. There's so much in there, even in a logistical sense. "Ante-Purgatory" takes up practically half the book, and the Earthly Paradise another large chunk.

There is also at the end of the Purgatorio what I believe must have been one of the most upsetting scenes in the whole Commedia for the Medieval reader, when Virgil must leave Dante because the unbaptized cannot enter Heaven. I imagine that for the Medieval reader, who saw Virgil as the epitome of what a Roman Empire human could be & who shaped their culture & tastes like no one could possibly do today, this was the moment when the reader seriously considered kicking the old saw of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (Outside the Church No Salvation) to the curb. I mean, replacing Virgil for Beatrice, some Baptized Bint! Really!? Really!? It ain't just me who sees it this way.

Paradiso is, necessarily, more mystical, and the imagery is at times difficult to follow.

The Paradiso is much more a theological tome than the other two. It reminds me of the Talking Heads song:

Heaven
Is a place
A place
where nothing
ever happens

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

YoungHegelian,

The terrible, unbearably painful take on Purgatorio, Canto XXX, is by Jorge Luis Borges, "The Meeting in a Dream." Borges suggests that this vast edifice, the entire Commedia, is a way to reach the dead, forever unattainable Beatrice by the only means he had -- literature -- and that having laboriously descended to the lowest pit of Hell and then ascended as far as the Earthly Paradise ... well, Beatrice gives him, before all angels, the tongue-lashing of a lifetime. Borges quotes another scholar as saying that "nothing in the previous pages indicates that the greatest humiliation of his life awaited him there."

So Dante dreamt Beatrice, but "he dreamt her very remote, he dreamt her inaccessible, he dreamt her in a chariot drawn by an animal that is part lion and part eagle and is all lion or all eagle when reflected in her eyes." The whole procession surrounding Beatrice: "Two things are clear: Dante meant the procession to be beautiful; the procession is of a complicated ugliness." (Sorry, I am doubly misquoting, first because I haven't the Spanish, and second because I haven't the book; all this is from memory. But I remember it very vividly, from Labyrinths in my HS Spanish class; it was the only thing I knew about the Purgatorio until I set out, a couple decades later, to read all of it.)

Later today I'll try to fetch out a copy of some translation -- there are a number in this house, I was a Borges fanatic in college -- and give you a more exact sense. At the moment my husband is giving a viola lesson right next door to my library, so no go :-)

Clyde said...

If you click the Hypervisions link, you can see other art collections at the Uffizi. The Portinari Triptych by Hugo van der Goes is particularly interesting.

Ficta said...

Thanks for this! Really enjoying it. If you click the Italiano link in Chrome (to go to the Italian version of the website) and turn on automated translation, you'll get a very readable version of the commentary.

I've read Dante more times than I can count (always in translation, unfortunately) and it's endlessly fascinating. I agree with Michelle above, that the Purgatory is probably my favorite. It's the most connected to daily life, for one. Dorothy Sayers said something like "reading only the Inferno is like visiting a great city and only touring the sewers."

If you've never read it, I'd recommend Mark Musa's translation, the blank verse allows the translation to seem unforced and the notes are just the right amount of info for a first trip through. For the best poetry in English: Pinsky for Hell, Merwin for Purgatory, and I feel like no one's really captured Heaven, but Ciardi or Clive James are good.

Owen said...

Per correr miglior acque alza le vele
omai la navicella del mio ingegno,
che lascia dietro a sé mar sì crudele;

E canterò di quel secondo regno
dove l'umana spirito si purga
e di salire al ciel diventa degno...

Purgatorio, I, 1-6

To course through better waters, raises her sails
Now the little boat of my invention
That leaves behind itself a sea so cruel;

And I will sing of that second realm
Where the human spirit purges itself
And of rising to heaven becomes worthy...

My crap freehand translation, trying to stay close to the word-order of the original (but missing the music; the seemingly effortless rhyme). I hope it conveys the tangible magic of the scene setting; the immediate and fully conceived shape of the story he will tell.

Owen said...

umana = umano.

Sorry.

Owen said...

Ficta: thanks for that comment on translations. I have made a (haphazard) hobby of reading various translations. Agree that Pinsky is very strong. Ciardi was my first acquaintance. I am working here from Anthony Esolen, whose near-rhyming version impresses me a lot.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Mandelbaum has medieval Italian on verso, English on recto, for those who want to keep track. I looked up my copy some months back when Ann was blogging about "dog-faced pony soldier," because there is a point near the end of Inferno where Mandelbaum's translation runs "A thousand faces made doglike by the cold." Never got up to posting it here, though. The word was, IIRC, "cagnazzi."

You'd think it would be easier to write terza rima in English than in Italian, but it isn't. The only English terza rima translation I'm familiar with is Dorothy Sayers', and of course she did only the Inferno. And taught herself (sort of) medieval Italian for the project.

YoungHegelian, "The Meeting In a Dream" isn't in Labyrinths, but in Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952. (Otras Inquisiciones.) I dragged it out post-viola-lesson and it's pretty much as I remember it. The other scholar quoted is Theophil Spoerri, in a book published in 1946.

I had forgotten that at the end Borges refers to the episode of Paolo and Francesca in the Inferno: Questi, che mai da me non fia diviso. "With frightening love, with anxiety, with admiration, with envy, Dante must have formed that line."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Sorry: Translation of my copy of Otras Inquisiciones is by James E. Irby. And the line quoted from Francesca translates roughly as "This one, from whom I shall never be parted."

The Godfather said...

I've never read the Divine Comedy, but when I was (say) 13 I discovered a largescale illustrated version of it in my parents' library. At the time I was mostly interested in the naked females, so as we used to deny about Playboy, I did read it for the pictures. (That alone would have condemned me to Hell.) As the years went on, and I tried to find a version of Christianity that worked for me, the images from Dante kept getting in the way. Like everyone of my generation I grew up thinking "queers" were -- well-- queer, but did they deserve what the images in that Dante book portrayed? There were a lot of things (heterosexual in my case) that I wanted to do and would have done if the opportunity had presented, that Dante would have put me in Hell for.

I'm told that "Universalism" -- the idea that everyone goes to Heaven -- is a heresy, and I can understand that. But Dante's idea of huge numbers of folks being condemned to everlasting torment for what seem to be "lifestyle" issues, I just can't buy. I imagine Hell as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and maybe a couple of others, sitting around a table playing bridge (it IS supposed to be Hell) with the fires burning around their ankles.

mockturtle said...

Godfather, we all deserve hell. But God provided us the perfect sacrifice in His Son [the Lamb without blemish of the Passover], who paid with his blood for our sins if we believe in him as Lord and Savior. And, yes, it is really that simple, try as man might to make it complicated.

Night said...

The majority of the worlds art is locked up in a closet somewhere.

Night said...

I'm surprised that Microsoft and Google and Facebook don't catalogue all the existing art in the world into a great tech library then offer holographic displays of it.

Lem said...

Let the memes begin.

The Godfather said...

Thanks Mockturtle. I think so, too.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The Godfather, what mockturtle said. Dante is not putting you in Hell for anything; Dante is saying that Hell is where you end up if you do certain things. Just as the Church doesn't "excommunicate" you; you excommunicate yourself from the Church, and all the Church does is register the fact.

Universalism is the belief that no one can conceivably go to Hell. As such, it's a heresy; but we are permitted to hope that Hell is empty. The orthodox position is that there is a Hell, but we are allowed to pray that there's no one in it. Unitarianism, by the by, is the belief that there's only one God, meaning that Christ is not God. So a unitarian universalist is, briefly, one who thinks that all are saved, and that Christ hasn't saved them. This has led some Unitarian-Universalist congregations into knotty territory. I remember playing Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna for a U-U congregation some time back; they sang the whole thing, but the verse that mentioned Christ by name wasn't translated in the program. I haven't seen anything so silly since I was in a choir at Juilliard, doing Holst's Ode To Death, and the title was given in the program as Ode To Immortality, because, parents.

Owen said...

Michelle Dulak Thompson @ 4:39: "...Questi, che mai da me non fia diviso." Gorgeous. My rough version would be, "This one, who never from me shall be divided" which maybe has more rhetorical punch and tracks the Italian; but maybe seems studied or dated in that "never from me" structure. Tradutore, traditore. The music of the original is impossible to convey exactly.

gpm said...

I've always been partial to the phrase "Lasciate ogni speranza," which I can almost understand in the original and pronounce richly in what I hope approximates the Italian.

>>I've been to the Uffizi. One of the world's most famous galleries and I have no memory of what I saw there.

Got to the Uffizi very early on a rainy day, so crowds not a big deal (don't even talk to me about trying to see the inside of Versailles, though the grounds, Petit Trianon, etc. (Grand Trianon was closed) were magnificent). Can't say my memories are very sharp, but I liked the earliest, pre- (proto-???) Renaissance rooms in the Uffizi with Cimabue, etc. Got to be a bit of a bore (and I bailed out) around the Botticelli room/gallery or so.

--gpm

gpm said...

>>maybe seems studied or dated in that "never from me" structure

My Italian is rudimentary at best, but "never" seems a bit of a stretch. All I can see is "not" ("non") unless there's something else strengthening the negative.

--gpm

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

gpm,

In Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, there is a literal, though allegorical, character, La Speranza, who sings "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate." Before, of course, departing.

Weird: "Speranza" is OK per spell check, but "speranza" (lower-case "S") is not.

Owen said...

gpm@7:01: “mai da me” is literally “never from me.”

ken in tx said...

Back in the 70s, The Unitarian-Universalists were developing a new Creed, and could not agree on whether to refer to God as He or She. They resolved this by leaving God out of their creed. It was explained that you didn't have to believe in God to be U-U. I've been to several of their services. They believe in good coffee and good deeds--in that order.

The Godfather said...

I love finding serious, knowledgeable Christian theologians on this site. My earliest American ancestors were Puritans (none of their descendants, so far as I know, became Unitarians, and one at least was an ordained Congregassional minister), but my later American ancestors were Lutherans (the Germans) and Roman Catholics (from Ireland). I've been a lay leader of religious education groups in several churches and a lay church leader. I take my religion seriously, but not dogmatically. I hope all here have a better New Year than the last one.

stephen cooper said...

I could be wrong, but ..... mai is short for omai and does mean now, but in the fictional Inferno "now" is a permanent state to almost everyone but Dante and Vergil (and Charon and one or two others) - it would be redundant for most of the characters except Dante and Vergil to say "never".
So it is the context that renders "now" into "never"
(there is another complication, mai with a subjunctive verb means something different than it does with a verb not in the subjunctive --- absolutely no way to translate that into English).

By the way, I used to read a lot of reactions to Dante - I remember one writer, whose name I forget, saying she loved the Paradiso more than its younger siblings, but she had come to realize that moderns (meaning any one younger than Dante's grandchildren) could write and rewrite the themes of the first two thirds of the Divine Comedy - especially the Inferno, --- but that she did not expect, from any modern artist, anything like the Paradiso. That being said, I am sure a lot of people would disagree with her. and my guess is most people who care about such things could come up with lists of modern books or stories with some aspects of the Paradiso, often many aspects.

Joel said...

Hurrah for Dante. But Dante has to get past Virgil at the end of Purgatorio, because he has to surpass him and write a Christian epic. It's a good thing, too. Consider how Virgil's epic ends - with a merciless killing, and the spirit of Aeneas' enemy goes screaming down to Tartarus. Dante is writing a story that will end with a vision of Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us. He has to get past Virgil to find the gospel.

Bilwick said...

Nice hat, Poetry Boy.

mockturtle said...

Godfather, you and I just might be cousins.

Robert Cook said...

"Godfather, we all deserve hell."

No, we don't

"But God provided us the perfect sacrifice in His Son [the Lamb without blemish of the Passover], who paid with his blood for our sins if we believe in him as Lord and Savior. And, yes, it is really that simple, try as man might to make it complicated."

I do not mean to be insulting to you or other Christians, mockturtle, but this central concept of Christian theology makes no sense. It's God's Rube Goldberg answer to the folly of so much human behavior, (a reflection of our animal nature). If there were a god, and if they (to use the transgender pronoun, as God cannot have any gender) were as wise and loving as they is purported to be, they would simply accept all human souls into heaven, offering all of us reprieve from the misery that makes up so much of the lives of so many people.

To my reading, Christ's lessons were intended to teach humans how to live better lives on this plane in order to have better lives on this plane, (even while enduring hard and even tragic circumstances in our lives), which is the lesson offered by so many spiritual practices.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Robert Cook, may I offer you the chapter "The Ethics of Elfland" from G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy?

mockturtle said...

Cookie, I'm not insulted. You either get it or you don't. But the consequences of not getting it are grim.

And remember, Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me". John 14:6

mockturtle said...

And I might add that, if you don't understand the history of the Passover, you can't fully understand who Christ is and why he was crucified.