Dante Alighieri is the most illustrious and famous citizen of Florence.
Dante presence is everywhere in the city: in the place where his house once stood, in the little church where he met Beatrice, in the Baptistery where he was baptized and in many other places.
If you want to see the face of Dante you need to know where to look for it…
Florence hides a number of images of the great poet, more or less faithful to reality.
The most famous image of Dante is probably the one painted by Domenico di Michelino in 1465. This painting is located in Florence Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, and depicts the poet in front of his most famous intellectual creature: the inferno (hell) with its circles.
Behind the poet you can see the Dome by Brunelleschi and the city of Florence. Dante holds a volume of The Divine Comedy.
If you are interested in reading a good, easy to understand rendition of The Divine Comedy which includes several drawings selected from Botticelli’s series of illustrations, we reccommend the Mandelbaum edition.
Michelino’s painting is rich in symbols and Dan Brown mentions it in his latest book.
On the other hand, the most famous artist who portrayed Dante was probably his fellow citizen Giotto.
Giotto depicted Dante, dressed in red, at the center of a fresco representing the Paradise in the Cappella del Podestà (or Cappella della Maddalena) at the Bargello Museum.
Giotto met Dante in person and wanted to pay homage to him. Thus, we can consider this fresco dated 1332-1337 particularly important.
Also Giorgio Vasari speaks of this portrait in his Vite, but according to the most recent studies we can just say that the Cappella del Podestà frescoes are attributed to Giotto.
The Bargello portrait has been considered for a long time the oldest depiction of Dante Alighieri come down to us, but in 2005 a cycle of frescoes dated around 1366 was discovered in the nearby Palazzo dell’Arte dei Giudici e Notai (Judges, Lawyers, and Notaries Guild Palace) at Via del Proconsolo.
The palace houses now an exclusive restaurant, named Alle Murate. Many poets of the time are portrayed in these frescoes: the most famous are Dante and Boccaccio.
The Bargello portrait is actually the oldest one, but the one in the Palazzo dell’Arte dei Giudici is the only one certainly considered authentic. Thus, Dante features in this fresco are probably the closest to reality.
You will immediately notice that in this portrait Dante has a long tapered nose…
His nose is not hooked as we are used to see in successive representations!
In the Cappella Strozzi di Mantova of Santa Maria Novella Church there is a fresco depicting the Last Judgement according to the scheme of the Divine Comedy, which includes a portrait of Dante. This art work was made in 1350-1357.
Besides, in 1450 Andrea del Castagno portrayed Dante in the Cenacolo (Last Supper) of the Convent of Santa Apollonia in Florence.
Another famous portrait of Dante is the Botticelli one dated 1495, which show the poet with a laurel wreath to his cap as a symbol of expertise. However, this portrait is not kept in Florence.
Besides, an odd Dante’s profile is engraved on the floor of the street in front of the Museum of the Casa di Dante: author and time of this relief are unknown…
Very famous is also the statue of Dante in Piazza Santa Croce.
The monument was erected in 1865 on the occasion of the celebrations for the 600th anniversary of the birth of Dante. It was originally located at the center of the square and then moved to the side of the Basilica of Santa Croce, in order to make room for the historical Florentine soccer matches.
The statue represents the admiration of all Italy for the father of Italian language: thus, Dante is depicted very big, thinking and imposing.
A similar statue of Dante is also in the Uffizi Gallery Loggia, along with the statues of the “illustrious Tuscans”.
Dante is also celebrated, together with other great Italian artists, inside the Basilica of Santa Croce with a magnificent 1829 funerary monument, in which representations of Italy and Poetry mourn the death of the father of the Italian language.
Florence honors in many ways its most famous citizen, but his mortal remains are not in the city.
Dante died in exile in Ravenna in 1321, and his body is there still today.
Finally, we have to examine the most important portrait of Dante Alighieri in Florence: his death mask, kept in Palazzo Vecchio.
As this mask is so important for Dan Brown Inferno, we will talk about it in a specific blog post…
Pictures by Wikipedia