Botticelli

Dante Reading Day


Photo:
Dante’s tomb exterior in Ravenna, built in 1780

Publication:
Portrait of Dante (1265-1321) c. 1495, (Martin Bodmer Foundation, Cologny, CH)

Artist:
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

Inspiration:
Due to the Corona crisis, all events planned long before around the first Italian Dante Day, have had to be cancelled and transferred onto social media with the tags #Dantedì and #IoleggoDante. The celebration of Dante as “Father of the Italian language” (Petrarch and Boccaccio are the other two protagonists of the three crowns “tre corone” of Italian literature) was marked for 25 March. Scholars identified this date “as the start of the journey to the afterlife in Dante's Divine Comedy”. Next year, the 700th anniversary of the death of the mediaeval poet and philosopher will be hopefully held without any interruption.

What inspired me to imitate that famous portrait of Dante, was the striking coincidence of my interest in the “Divina Commedia” with the first edition of Dante Day, just when Italy was “in lockdown as it battles the Coronavirus pandemic”. I imagined how Dante looked at his agenda and wanted to ascend from his grave for participating the celebration. Immediately they put him on a mouth-nose protection, but that was pretty a handicap for the recitals. At the end of that day he became so angry that he confessed, he should have better remained in his grave, obeying the “Stay at home!” order above ground.

I know, I would not have fit in an accurate interpretation, due to that stern figure with a large hooked nose and the frowning look, the laurel crown (“corona d’alloro”), his mighty bust and the red garment. My dashing approach was made a bit easier by the demand of today’s real life under quarantine, to put on a mask. By the way, wearing a face mask would have prevented the fifty-six-year old “Supreme Poet” to contract a lethal fever, when he was sent on a mission to Venice in 1321.
But we can be fortunate to have at least his death mask surviving, which is claimed to be Dante’s only authentic portrait, but showing him frowning as well.