If you think Dante’s vision of purgatory and hell is an appropriate text to revisit in the age of the pandemic, then the Uffizi Gallery in Florence agrees. The Italian museum is to make available online 88 rarely-shown illustrations of The Divine Comedy, to mark the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet’s death in 1321.
The fourteenth-century narrative poem is widely considered the most important literary work of the Middle Ages and the greatest in the Italian language.
The pencil-and-ink drawings by Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, made between 1586 and 1588 and originally bound as a single volume to illustrate Dante’s allegorical journey through the afterlife, have only been shown twice before, in 1865 and in 1993. They became part of the museum’s collection in 1738.
The works form part of an online exhibition, A Riveder le Stelle (To See the Stars Again) staged as COVID-19 cases resurge across Europe, despite the promise of various vacination programmes. As Dante observed: ‘The path to paradise begins in hell.’