closed Dante illustrated during the centuries

Curated by: Grazia Maria De Rubeis

The show

In the year in which the 700th anniversary of Dante's death is celebrated, from 17 September 2021 to 8 January 2022 the Estense Library presents a unique exhibition for the richness of its Dante collection, one of the most prestigious in Italy and perhaps in the world. , Dante illustrated over the centuries. Testimonies figured in the collections of the Estense University Library drawing on the extraordinary heritage relating to the Poet stratified and sedimented over the centuries and preserved in the Estense Library. The exhibition, set up in the Campori room of the Estense Library, exhibits a selection that draws on relics of extreme rarity, from manuscripts to printed works, documents with precious and very different characteristics that allow you to retrace the entire history of the 'figurative Dante' including a video specially made by the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna. From the almost cinematographic sequence of papyrus style watercolors in the upper margin of all the sheets of the famous Dante Estense, to the woodcuts of the first printed editions, to the representations of Gustave Doré, Francesco Scaramuzza, William Blake, up to the recent Salvator Dalí and Renato Guttuso, passing for the 'images' of Amos Nattini, the material kept at the Estense Library, representative, in its richness, of Dante's immense production, manages to document the different ways of reading the Divine Comedy by illustrating "a chapter of the secular history of the "fortune" of Alighieri, as well as the history of the book and, more generally, of figurative art "

"With this exhibition we wanted to bring to light the richness of our Dante collections and at the same time emphasize the absolute modernity of the great poet" - says Martina Bagnoli, director of the Estensi Galleries - "The animation created by the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna it is the last act of comedy's long "visual fortune", which has always attracted the attention of illustrators and artists and continues to do so today. "

The initiative, which is part of the "Dante and the Divine Comedy in Emilia Romagna" project conceived by the Cultural Heritage Service of the region, in collaboration with the Italian Dante Society, has received the patronage and support of the National Committee for the celebrations of the 700 years of the death of Dante Alighieri.

THE EXHIBITION. The review, curated by Grazia Maria De Rubeis, director of the Estense University Library, includes over 30 volumes. Among these, illuminated manuscripts of the Divine Comedy, first among which the famous Dante Estense, with his watercolor drawings on the upper margin of all the sheets. Other very rare documents are represented by incunabula illustrated by branches and woodcuts: the Comedy printed in Florence in 1481, with 2 branches engraved by the Florentine goldsmith and engraver Baccio Baldini based on a design by Botticelli, the Brescia edition of 1487 rich in 68 woodcuts, and the Venetian one of 1497, illustrated by a hundred woods. As sixteenth-century editions, the Marcolini 1544 edition is on display, whose 87 woods visually represent the structure of Dante's overworld. The very few editions printed in the seventeenth century are followed by the eighteenth century, the most impressive of which is certainly the Zatta edition of 1757-58, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. With various annotations, and copious branches adorned, dedicated to the Imperial Majesty Festival of Elizabeth Petrowna, Empress of all the Russias. To complete the itinerary, the books illustrated by Gustave Doré, Francesco Scaramuzza, William Blake, Salvator Dalí and Renato Guttuso, passing through the 'images' by Amos Nattini. This is the monumental Divine Comedy in three volumes, which engaged Amos Nattini (1892-1985) both as an illustrator and as a publisher for more than twenty years, complete with the lectern designed by the famous architect Giò Ponti.

The exhibition ends with a video specially made for the occasion. The project, born from the collaboration between the Estensi Galleries and the Department of Communication and Art Education of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, involved students in historical and iconographic research. Directed and conceived by Filippo Pierpaolo Marino, teacher of Digital Video, the compositions and animations were created by Simone Tacconelli and Manuela Tommarelli together with Ivan Pjevcevic, Stefano Diso oversaw the sound design. The video is a journey through images and sounds in the universe of the Divine Comedy created through digital and traditional animation techniques. A journey that leads the viewer to discover Dante's illustrations preserved at the Estense Library in Modena, reworking them through collage, painting and drawing in order to create new visions and suggestions of an ever-current work, which restores the complexity of the human soul, as well as the prophetic spirit of the great poet.

Works on display

Timetable and tickets


Largo Porta Sant'Agostino, 337
41121 Modena


More planned

date_range Biblioteca Estense Biblioteca Estense


Until 27 August 2022

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