The 700th Anniversity of Dante is marked in 2021. In Italy, this will be celebrated with a year-long calendar of events.
700th Anniversary of Dante
Who Was Dante Alghieri?
Dante was an Italian poet, writer and philospher born in Florence c.1265 who died of malaria in Ravenna in 1321. 2021 is the 700th Anniversary of Dante’s death. You can read about his colourful life here. He wrote his works in Italian, mainly in the Tuscan dialect which was unusual for the time, when serious works still tended to be written in Latin. He is known as the father of the Italian language and is an iconic symbol of Italian culture.
Dante wrote a body of work, the most famous of which is his epic poem ‘Divine Comedy’ which he wrote in 1320. In 2020, Italy declared 25 March as National Dante Day, or ‘Dantedì’. The date is said to mark the start of Dante’s journey with the poem.
‘Divine Comedy’ is a long poem in epic tradition, split into three parts. It follows a pilgrim’s journey through hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio) and paradise (heaven – Paradiso). It contains references to scripture, historical events, morality and science. The story is essentially a study of the state of souls after death – and divine retribution. It was originally just called ‘Comedia’ (comedy) and the word ‘divine’ was added to the title in the 16th century.
My Experiences Of Reading The Poem
I first attempted to read ‘Divine Comedy’ when I was a teenager and found it hard going! Needless to say, Ididn’t get very far and gave up. I was horrified, I remember, at how serious and sad at times it was. I struggled with references that meant nothing to me at the time.
A TV Dante
My interest was rekindled by a fabulous TV production starring (now Sir) John Gielgud that was broadcast in the early 1990s. I would have been about thirty years old at that time. Called ‘A TV Dante’ I remember being captivated by ambitiousness of the programme, a heady mix of actors speaking to the camera with video footage and imagery. Gielgud’s commanding voice was rivetting. It was very advanced, technologically, for its day and was compulsive viewing. For me, it provided some insights into aspects of the ‘Divine Comedy’ and encouraged me to read the poem again. This time I was able to appreciate what I was reading, I enjoyed the style and the beauty of the writing. I have read it several times since.
Was Bosch Influenced By Dante?
One of my favourite painters is the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516). I have talked before about how my own artwork is influenced by certain artists. He was interested in depicting the evil within mankind and the consequences of actions (falling from grace). If you like, the concept of actions having consequences and divine retribution, one of the themes of ‘Divine Comedy’. The right wing of Bosch’s famous triptych ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’ is, for me, the visual depiction of ‘Inferno’ the first part of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. This short video gives a quick view of the painting.
Marking The 700th Anniversary of Dante
Italy has programmed a full year of (COVID-friendly) celebrations of the life of Dante. His birthplace of Florence, not that far from where I live, has a whole programme of events including lectures, exhibitions and study days.
At time of writing, there is a wonderful free online exhibition being hosted by the Uffizzi Gallery comprising 88 drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Federico Zuccari (a 16th Century Renaissance artist). View the exhibition here.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!