To honour the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, Christ Church hosts a small and focused display of books and drawings from the Renaissance period. Two early printed editions of Dante’s Comedy, describing the poet’s vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, show the impact of the new technology on the appearance of the poem and its illustration. Three fine drawings from the late 16th century by Jacopo Ligozzi, the principal surviving evidence of a larger project to create engravings to accompany the entire poem, give the visitor a dramatic introduction to the narrative of the poet who is lost in the forest, assailed by wild beasts, and helped towards salvation by the poet Virgil.
The two volumes on display are from the Library collections. One is the beautifully illustrated La comedia di Dante Aligieri con la noua espositione di Alessandro Vellutello (Christ Church shelfmark e.5.14). This 1544 edition was printed in Venice by Francesco Marcolini with a commentary by Alessandro Vellutello. The work is accompanied by 87 woodcuts of different sizes, attributed to the printer Francesco Marcolini, friend of Titian and Sansovino. This is a famous edition, among the most sought after. It served as a model for all illustrated versions of the sixteenth century. To give a sense of the originality of the illustration, a selection of woodcuts has been included in this presentation. The second volume on dislay is the exquisitely produced 1484 edition, the Comento di Christophoro Landino fiorentino sopra La comedia di Danthe Alighieri poeta fiorentino (Christ Church shelfmark e.2.51). Printed in Venice by Ottaviano Scoto, this is the second edition with Landino's comment of the Divine Comedy, after the first published in 1481.
This small exhibition in collaboration with Christ Church Library - Special Collections opens in the Christ Church College Picture Gallery from 1 October to 19 December 2021.
Other Dante exhibitions in Oxford: Dante - The Invention of Celebrity, at the Ashmolean Museum. The Divine Comedy - From Manuscript to Manga, at the Bodleian Library.
For other news related to Special Collections, please go the Library Exhibitions and Research.
Curators: Gervase Rosser (Professor of the History of Art, St Catherine's College, History (History of Art)), Jacqueline Thalmann (Curator, Christ Church Picture Gallery), Cristina Neagu (Head of Rare Books, Christ Church) and Gabriel Sewell (Librarian, Christ Church)
Find out more about the Dante 2021 Season here.
Also see the Dante in Oxford 2021 project website, part of the TORCH Humanities Cultural Programme.