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Italy’s Uffizi Opens Dante Anniversary With a Virtual Exhibition

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has said it will make some rarely displayed drawings of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ available to view online as part of a ground-breaking virtual exhibition. The show has been put together to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet. Organisers at the gallery have said that the virtual exhibition will consist of no fewer than 88 high-resolution images of the famous poem, works which were the creation of the 16th-century Renaissance artist, Federico Zuccari.

Eike Schmidt, who is the Uffizi Gallery’s director, said that the Zuccari drawings will be accessible from the 8th of January and that the would be made freely available to all at any time of the day or night. According to Schmidt, the series of drawings were created to illustrate Dante’s widely recognised masterpiece. Like the epic poem, the images can be split into three sections, each of which recounts a pilgrim’s travels as he descends into hell, spends some time in purgatory and then features his ascent in to the heavens.

A Wider Audience

“Until now,” Schmidt told the press, “these beautiful drawings have only been able to be viewed by a few scholars.” The gallery director said that he wanted to change that despite the fragility of the drawings. This factor partly accounts for why they have only ever been displayed to the public on two previous occasions. The first time was in Florence in the middle of the nineteenth century when it was 600 years since Dante had been born. The other occasion was in 1993 in Abruzzo. However, when they were put on public show, neither exhibition was able to present the full set. This will now change thanks to the virtual exhibition that the Uffizi is mounting in 2021. “Now they will be published in full,” Schmidt added.

The Zuccari drawings are rendered in contrasting tones of black and red and were originally made in pencil and ink. The images became part of the Uffizi’s already impressive collection of Renaissance artworks in 1738 although they had been fashioned much earlier, during Zuccari’s stay in Spain in the 1580s. The series of impressive illustrations were formerly bound into a volume and included the relevant verse of the poem alongside each with an image on the opposing page.

To complete the exhibition, these texts and the scholarly commentary that was made at the time will also be included as a part of the virtual show. Anyone who wishes to view these remarkable illustrations of one of the most famous poems in history should seek the exhibition’s title, A riveder le stelle, which approximately translates as ‘to see the stars once more’. This is a reference to the renowned final line of Inferno.

Celebrating Dante’s Life and Work

The Italian poet, or Dante Alighieri as he is more properly known, is considered to be the father of the modern Italian language. For Italian speakers, he represents a figure that might combine Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare in terms of the effect his written work has had on the language and the wider culture of Italy. Although he was born in Tuscany, of which Florence is the regional capital, Dante died and was buried in the city of Ravenna, close to the eastern coast of the Italian peninsula. It is expected that events in Ravenna will also be staged later in the year to celebrate the life and work of the poet in the city.

The Uffizi Gallery said that it was truly proud to open the anniversary of the Dante’s death by making what it called ‘an extraordinary collection of graphic art’ available over the internet. Schmidt said that he thought both the art and the text-based part of the exhibition allowed valuable material to become available to both academic researchers and fans of literature who are also passionate about the poet’s work and his wider pursuit of knowledge and virtue.

Interested in how museums have responded to Covid? We’ll be hearing how museums around the role have pivoted to digital during the pandemic at the MuseumNext Digital Summit. Find out more about the event and get your tickets here.

About the author – Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.

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