James Torrens and Brenda Schildgen on Par. 23 for “Canto per Canto”

“While in the two preceding cantos Peter Damian and Saint Benedict vehemently incriminate the corruption of prelates and monastic orders, in Paradiso 23 invective gives way to rhapsody. The canto begins with Beatrice looking up eagerly at the saints – a looking up which is part of the outside of the mind experience that Dante’s guide encourages him to have. In their conversation on the canto, James Torrens and Brenda Schildgen discuss the various registers that Dante uses to express this experience of going beyond the mind as well as to speak of the Virgin Mary. The language goes from sublime to humble for ‘the Virgin herself represents that humility, on the one hand, and the sublime on the other’. As Dante uses a wide range of poetic registers, so does he use a wide range of images of the Virgin – early images as well as images drawn from the vernacular versions. Enjoy!” —Leonardo Chiarantini

Watch or listen to the video of “Paradiso 23: Preview of the Finale” here.

Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time is a collaborative initiative between New York University’s Department of Italian Studies and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, and the Dante Society of America. The aim is to produce podcast conversations about all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy, to be completed within the seventh centenary of Dante’s death in 2021.

Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks and Books About Walking

“It’s also a book about walking. Macfarlane is nothing if not boots on ground, following one path or another as he hoofs it from orchard to cottage to inn to pub, talking to the people who know the land best, the ones who live and work on it. Of course, he is not the first person to connect walking with writing. The first writers didn’t have any choice. Before cars and trains and airplanes, they could choose economy travel (by foot) or business class (via mule or horse); only the well-off could travel in first class (coach). Not that walking is a bad thing for a writer: ‘My wit will not budge if my legs are not moving,’ writes Montaigne.

Keats often walked as many as 12 miles a day, even when his consumption was raging. Dickens trod the streets of London all night ‘to still my beating mind,’ as he said. And before the Dante of the Divine Comedy legged it through the Inferno on his way to Purgatory and Paradise, the real-life Dante Alighieri wandered for years after his exile from Florence, crossing swamps where one might sicken and die in hours and following roads that gave way to paths dense with briars and thick with trees hiding thieves.”    –David Kirby, The Smart Set, August 10, 2020

Check out Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane on Amazon here.

“The Most Harrowing Paintings of Hell Inspired by Dante’s Inferno

“Dante Alighieri’s depiction of the afterlife has inspired generations of readers since the Divine Comedy was first published in 1472. In the 14,233 verses of this poem, Dante envisions a trip to the afterlife, guided first by the Roman poet Virgil, who leads him through Hell and Purgatory, and then by his beloved Beatrice, who leads him through Paradise. His detail-rich descriptions of Hell, envisioned as nine concentric circles containing souls of those “who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen,” have inspired artists for the last five centuries. Here are some of the most poignant visualizations of Dante’s Inferno.

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Stradanus, Canto VIII (1587-1588)

Flemish painter Jan van der Straet, known by his Italian name ‘Stradanus,’ completed a series of illustrations of the Divine Comedy between 1587 and 1588, currently preserved at the Laurentian Library in Florence. This illustration refers to Canto VIII, where the wrathful and slothful are punished. Stradanus combines elements of Italian Mannerism, such as painstaking attention to detail, with distinctive Flemish traits like the physiognomy of the demonic figure steering Dante’s boat, who shows a deeply harrowing expression.”    –V. M. Traverso, Aleteia, July 17, 2020

Dante’s Hell

“Soon, the world will be able to see an extraordinary film based on Dante Alighieri’s literary masterpiece, the Divine Comedy – Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Dante’s Hell is the first slate of a vibrant and historic documentary trilogy, which could be the blockbuster of the year.  Not until now, has this story been told so descriptively by visual art from artists of the highest caliber and an array of celebrities and known scholars.

Dante’s Hell, produced and directed by Boris Acosta, is a compelling four-quadrant and spectacular documentary like no other, presented as a visual and narrative journey to InfernoDante’s Hell is a rare and unique film featuring an amazing international cast such as Eric Roberts and Franco Nero, among more than 30 celebrities, scholars and artists from Italy, US, UK, including Monsignor Marco Frisina from The Vatican.”    —

“The Dante Code”

“Renaissance art fans will note that this sketch evokes Botticelli’s famous 1495 portrait of Dante Alighieri, the medieval author of the Divine Comedy. In this cornerstone of Italian literature, Dante describes his mythical journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise, guided first by the shade of the Roman poet Virgil and later by the ghost of Beatrice Portinari, the girl Dante loved in childhood but never married. Among other things, the Divine Comedy is an allegory of Christian suffering and redemption, a romantic love story, a veiled account of Dante’s political exile from his beloved Florence, and a cultural manifesto that established the Italian language as a legitimate literary alternative to Latin. There are no obvious references to Iceland in the Divine Comedy, an epic poem of more than 14,000 lines whose original manuscript has never been found, or in any of Dante’s other works. Nowhere in the various accounts of Dante’s life is it mentioned that he ever visited Iceland. So why are we here?

We’re here because Gianazza has spent the past decade trying to prove his theory that the Divine Comedy is not a mythical story about the afterlife but rather a factual, albeit coded, account of a secret journey to Iceland Dante made in the early 1300s. Why would Dante shlep all the way from exile in sunny Ravenna to a cold, foggy island populated by Scandinavian farmers and their livestock, and not tell anyone? Gianazza believes that Dante was following in the footsteps of medieval Christian warriors called the Knights Templar. He hypothesizes that these knights had visited Iceland a century earlier carrying a secret trove that they concealed in an underground chamber in the Jökulfall Gorge.

The Templars picked Iceland for their hiding place, Gianazza believes, because it was one of the most distant and obscure places known to medieval Europeans, who sometimes identified it with the frozen, semimythical Ultima Thule of classical geography. The Templars calculated the exact coordinates of the chamber and identified landmarks to orient future visitors. Years later Dante acquired the secret knowledge, made a pilgrimage to the site, and then coded the directions into his great epic so that future generations might follow in his footsteps. Like Dante before him, Gianazza is searching for what some might call the Holy Grail, a term that he avoids. Having cracked Dante’s code, he expects to find early Christian texts and perhaps even the lost original manuscript of the Divine Comedy, all sealed in lead to guard them from the damp Icelandic weather. Gianazza launched his quest several years before Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, but in some ways he’s a more cautious, real-life version of symbologist Robert Langdon, the hero of Brown’s best-selling thriller.”    –Richard McGill Murphy, Town & Country, January 18, 2013

Empyrean by Alexandra Carr

Hell, Heaven and Hope: A Journey through life and the afterlife with Dante is now open to the public in the Palace Green Galleries at Durham. The exhibition features a fabulous range of copies of Dante’s works, as well as contemporary artwork. Alexandra Carr’s Empyrean features as part of the section of Paradise. Completed as part of Alexandra’s Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence programme, the sculpture represents the spheres of the medieval universe, drawing on Grosseteste and Dante: sculpting with light on the grandest scale in the creation of the universe.”    —Ordered Universe, December 4, 2017

“Why we should read Dante as well as Shakespeare”

“Dante can seem overwhelming. T.S. Eliot’s peremptory declaration that ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them: there is no third’ is more likely to be off-putting these days than inspiring. Shakespeare’s plays are constantly being staged and filmed, and in all sorts of ways, with big names in the big parts, and when we see them we can connect with the characters and the issues with not too much effort.

Dante is much more remote – a medieval Italian author, writing about a trip he claims to have made through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise at Easter 1300, escorted first by a very dead poet, Virgil, and then by his dead beloved, Beatrice. and meeting the souls of lots of people we only vaguely know of, if we’ve heard of them at all. First he sees the damned being punished in ways we are likely to find grotesque or repulsive. And then, when he meets souls working their way towards heavenly bliss or already enjoying it, there are increasing doses of philosophy and theology for us to digest.

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The addictiveness is evident from the fact that Dante enthusiasts, Christian or not, find it hard to imagine Hell in any other way, and spend happy minutes musing about which circle is best suited to some particular friend, enemy or public figure. Dante thought Paradise was much more difficult to get into and much more difficult to describe. We are certainly not accustomed to prolonged evocations of happiness. Paradiso gives us one way, and an astoundingly dynamic one, of thinking about what human happiness might ultimately be.”    –Peter Hainsworth, Oxford University Press Blog, February 27, 2015

“Dante Inspires Us to Follow Our Own Path”

“The Italian government has designated March 25 as ‘Dantedi,’ a day set aside to honor and pay tribute to Dante Alighieri, ‘Il Sommo Poeta’ (‘The Supreme Poet’). According to scholars, Dante’s journey to Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, which he recounted in his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy began on March 25 (his travels in the afterlife began during Easter week in they year 1300).

This year, 2020, commemorates the 700th anniversary of the completion of the Divine Comedy, Unfortunately, Dante died in 1321, some 150 years before the Divine Comedy was published.

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‘Dantedi’ reflects the spirit of the Fourth Canto of the Inferno, depicting Virgil’s welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending eternity in Limbo: ‘L’ombra sua torna, ch’era dipartita’ (‘His spirit, which has left us, returns’). Indeed, ‘Dantedi’ is an opportunity for us to welcome Dante’s spirit back to our society – a spirit that encompasses innovation, imagination, inspiration, and intensity. Taken together, those ‘4-i’s’ are the essential ingredients for hope and a brighter future for ourselves and our posterity. And, perhaps, embracing those ‘4-i’s’ will help us to find a way to get through the current global health crisis – to stop this dreaded illness that continues to inflict our world.

Dante’s lesson to all of us: “Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le gente” (“Follow your own road and let people talk”). Basically, Dante is telling us to follow our own star – to walk our own unique path. And, when things become challenging, Dante reminds us that ‘The path to Paradise begins in Hell.'”    –Hudson Reporter Reader, Hudson Reporter, March 15, 2020

Dante 700 by Timothy Schmalz

“In September 2019, Timothy Schmalz’s ‘Angels Unawares,’ a life-size bronze sculpture commemorating the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, was installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the occasion.

Timothy is currently working on a new project to honor the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri in 2021. ‘I believe Dante is one of the greatest writers of all time. So, I thought I would do what has never been done before. I think this is an amazing opportunity to celebrate not only Dante, but Italian and European culture.’ He plans to sculpt each of Dante’s 300 cantos. The ‘Dante 700’ sculpture project will memorialize this significant anniversary with sculptures of each of the 100 cantos in the Divine Comedy. Very few artists ever represent more than the Inferno in their paintings and sculptures. This is a rare project that will show individual sculptures of all the cantos, including Purgatory and Paradise.

The project will include the cantos and a principal sculpture of Dante. Installed together and cast in bronze, the work will be dynamically represented in order to inspire people to actually read Dante. This sculpture project will also be used to create a new illustrated book of Dante in collaboration with a new translation, which will be finished for the anniversary year in 2021.”    —La Gazzetta Italiana, April 2020

“Thrift Store Wood Engraving Print Turns Out To Be Salvador Dalí Artwork”

“It’s pretty much the thrift store dream; to find a rare, long lost treasure on a crowded tchotchke shelf, on sale for a bargain price. That’s what happened at the Hotline Pink Thrift Shop in Kitty Hawk, N.C., when Wendy Hawkins came across an otherwise ignored piece of art.

[. . .]

The item turned out to be a 1950s woodcut print that was created and signed by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. It is part of a series of 100 illustrations depicting Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, a 14th century Italian poem about the writer’s fictional journey from the deepest circles of hell, up the mountain of purgatory and finally to paradise.

[. . .]

Dalí was initially commissioned by the Italian government to make the series in honor Dante’s birthday celebration but outrage over a Spaniard taking on an Italian poet’s work led officials to drop it. However, the artist had become so taken by the project that he couldn’t let it go. In the end he created a series of 100 watercolor paintings — one for each chapter of Dante’s book — that were reproduced as wood engravings. Each of those required about 35 separate blocks to complete the image

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It’s called Purgatory Canto 32 and it shows a woman in blue next to a man in red.”    –Vanessa Romo, NPR, March 10, 2020