Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sandro Botticelli’s Illustrations for Inferno by Dante Alighieri

These illustrations for the first book of the Divine Comedy were drawn for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and appear to be unfinished, in that a few were fully or partially colored as if all were initially intended to reach that state.  Whether or not Botticelli proved overambitious in this project, the work that remains is nothing to regret.  The quality of the line is beautiful in its own right (and I am actually rather glad that he didn't complete it as planned.)   I prefer to show those drawn primarily in outline first and then the two more fully colored (though this means they will be seen out of order.)  They were made for a unique book of Dante’s masterpiece, with the text written out on the drawing's verso by Niccolò Mangona.  This was done on large sheets of parchment in an horizontal format.  One may note the perforations on the side where they once were bound.

 The Nine Circles of Hell, which are not all represented in this small selection of the ninety two drawings that survive (twenty five of which illustrate the Inferno,) are as follows: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.

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