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The Divine Comedy by Salvador Dali
Posted by TK on 12/30/2007 11:58:25 AM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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Dante’s Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri was a great poet and master of Italian literature. The Divine Comedy, written by Dante between 1308 and his death in 1321, is widely considered the central epic poem of Italian literature, and is considered one of the greatest literary works in the world. The poem tells of Dante's journey through the three realms of the dead. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, (Dante's great love, a Florentine whom he had much admired and who he immortalized through his poetry) guides him through Heaven.

Composed of three cantiche — Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise) — each composed of 33 verses (cantos) - the poem is an imaginative vision of the Christian afterlife. An initial canto serves as an introduction to the poem and is generally not considered to be part of the first cantica, bringing the total number of cantos to 100. See full analysis of the poem.

Dali and Dante: The Quest for Life’s Meaning

In 1951, the Italian Government commissioned 100 watercolors for each verse of the Divine Comedy to commemorate the 700th birthday of Dante (May, 1265). There was a public outcry when the news became public as Dali, a Spaniard, was chosen as the official artist. The Divine Comedy suite consists of 100 color wood engravings created between 1960 and 1964 after 100 watercolors painted between 1951 and 1960.

It appears that Dali identified with Dante. Just as Dante adored Beatrice and made her immortal in many of his literary works, so we are reminded of the passion that Dali had for his wife and muse, Gala. On some of Dali's designs for the 33 prints of paradise, the face and contours of Gala can be recognized.

The Divine Comedy is one of Dali’s most important bodies of work and is a landmark of 20th century art.

“Surrounded by countless people who murmur my name and call me “maitre,” I am going to inaugurate the exhibition of my one hundred illustrations for the Divine Comedy at the Galliera Museum. It is a very pleasant sensation, this admiration that flows over me in magic waves, again and again confounding abstract art, which is dying of envy. When they ask me why I have depicted hell in bright colors, I answer that romanticism committed the ignomy of making us believe that hell was black as the coal mines of Gustave Dore, where you cannot see a thing. All that is wrong. Dante’s hell is illuminated by the sun and the honey of the Mediterranean, and this is why the errors of my illustrations are analytical and supergelatinous with their co-efficient of angelic viscosity. The hyper-aesthetics of two people devouring each other can be observed in my illustrations in broad daylight for the first time. It is a light that is frenzied with mystical and ammoniacal joy.” - Salvador Dali.

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