Literature

Italy celebrates Year of Dante in 2021

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Italy kicks off its 2021 programme of events to mark the 700 years since the death of Dante with a virtual display at the Uffizi in Florence. 

Italy is marking the 700th anniversary of the death of the mediaeval poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri, known as the Father of the Italian language, with a programme of commemorative events throughout 2021.

The celebration begins with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence staging a free virtual exhibition of 88 fragile drawings of The Divine Comedy, Dante’s epic work which he completed a year before his death in 1321.

Ulisse and Diomede, The Divine Comedy, by Federico Zuccari.

The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are normally only available to view by a handful of scholars and have been seen by the public just twice: first in 1865 and again in 1993.

The sketches, which depict scenes of hell, purgatory and heaven, passed through the hands of the powerful Orsini and Medici families before becoming part of the Uffizi collection in the 18th century.

Lucifer, The Divine Comedy, by Zuccari

The #Dante2021 anniversary programme will centre mainly in Ravenna, with events also due to take place in 70 Italian towns and villages connected to the poet either through his writings or personal life.

The Divine Comedy

La Divina Commedia is a long narrative poem representing a 14th-century vision of the afterlife, describing Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead: Inferno (hell), Puragtorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (heaven).

The first printed edition was published in Foligno, Italy, on 11 April 1472, with 14 of the original 300 copies still in existence.

Today Dante’s masterpiece is widely considered to be the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

Who was Dante Alighieri?

Born in Florence in 1265, Dante wrote his verses in the vernacular, opting for Tuscan dialect in an era when poetry was generally composed in Latin, meaning it was only read by the most educated readers.

Dante’s unorthodox approach is credited with making literature accessible to the public, as well as paving the way for important Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio.

Luca Signorelli, portrait of Dante. Fresco (1500-1504), Cappella della Madonna di S. Brizio, Duomo of Orvieto.

Dante also had a profound influence on Western art through his depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

He is best known for his poetic trilogy La Divina Commedia which made an indelible impression on both literature and theology.

The poet died in 1321, aged 56, while in exile in Ravenna, where his tomb can be visited today at the Basilica di S. Francesco.

Accademia della Crusca, the world’s leading authority and research centre on Italian language, is celebrating Dante’s 700th anniversary by publishing a new word or expression coined by the poet for each day of 2021, accompanied by an explanation, on its website.

Dantedì

Last year Italy’s culture ministry established a national day dedicated to Dante, known as Dantedì, to be marked annually on 25 March, the date given by scholars for the start of the journey to the afterlife in The Divine Comedy.

Launching the event, Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini said: “Dante reminds us of many things that hold us together: Dante is the unity of the country, Dante is the Italian language, Dante is the very idea of Italy.”

To keep up to date with events for the “anno dantesco” as they are announced, follow Dante2021.

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