Largest-ever exhibition dedicated to Dante Alighieri opens in Forli

From April 30 to July 11, 2021, the San Domenico Museums in Forli will host "Dante. The Vision of Art," the largest exhibition ever dedicated to Dante.

From April 30 to July 11, 2021, the San Domenico Museums in Forlì will host a major exhibition on Dante Alighieri (Florence, 1265 - Ravenna, 1321) on the seven hundredth anniversary of his death: it is Dante. The Vision of Art, which offers the public a rich exhibition path over a time span from the 13th to the 20th century, with the aim of presenting the multiple figurative translations of Dante’s visionary power. The San Domenico Museums are thus transformed into a sort of Dantean gallery, being able to count on masterpieces by artists such as Cimabue, Giotto, Beato Angelico, Michelangelo, Tintoretto, Canova, Andrea del Castagno, all the way to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Macchiaioli and the twentieth century with Galileo Chini, Plinio Nomellini, Felice Casorati, Lucio Fontana and Pablo Picasso. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, illustrations and manuscripts are on display. The exhibition is organized by the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì and the Uffizi Galleries, as part of the celebrations for Alighieri promoted by the Ministry of Culture: the aim of the exhibition is to tell the full story of the figure of the father of the Divine Comedy, on the seventh centenary of his death.

The project is the brainchild of Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, and Gianfranco Brunelli director of major exhibitions at the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì. The exhibition is curated by Antonio Paolucci and Fernando Mazzocca, assisted by a prestigious scientific committee. The choice of Forlì as the venue for the exhibition is linked to the fact that Forlì is a Dantean city. In Forlì, in fact, Dante found refuge, having left Arezzo, in the fall of 1302, with the Ordelaffi family, the city’s Ghibelline lords, and he also returned to Forlì, occasionally, thereafter.

About 300 works are on display, divided into 18 sections that analyze and reconstruct for the first time, the intimate relationship between Dante and art, presenting the artists who have rendered in images the visionary power of Dante, his works and in particular the Divine Comedy, or have dealt with themes similar to those of Dante, or have drawn from him single episodes or characters, disengaging them from the whole story and making them live in themselves. About fifty paintings, sculptures and drawings arrive on loan from the Uffizi Galleries, co-organizers of the exhibition event. These include Andrea del Castagno’s fresco of Dante, recently restored by the Opificio delle Pietre dure; Federico Zuccari’s illustrations of the Divine Comedy; and Romantic painter Nicola Monti’s Francesca da Rimini in Dante’s Inferno, purchased by the Florentine museum just last year, on the occasion of the first Danteedi (March 25). Other loans come from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the National Gallery in Sofia, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, the Museum of Art in Toledo, the Musées des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, Tours, and Angers, the Galleria Nazionale d’Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, the Borghese Gallery, the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, the Capodimonte Museum, the Musée d’Orsay, the Capitoline Museums, and the Archaeological Museum in Naples. A total of thirty Italian institutions, including museums and libraries, have lent their works.

The review begins by recounting the Poet’s early critical fortunes. This part is told through manuscripts and early printed editions of the Comedy and some important illuminated Codices from the 14th and 15th centuries. Special sections are devoted to Dante’s fame in the Renaissance season, the Neoclassical and Pre-Romantic rediscovery of his genius, and Romantic and 20th-century interpretations of his work and legacy. A special chapter is devoted to the relationship between Dante and antiquity and between Dante and his time: from the busts of Dante’s classical references, from Cicero to Seneca to Homer to Plato and Aristotle, to the account of politics in Dante’s time with the confrontation clash between the Communes, the Church and the Empire. This part closes with a reference to the poetics of the Vita Nova and the figure of Beatrice, whom the Poet elevates to an emblem of the renewal of art and his own positive passions. On display here are works by Henry James Holiday and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Also featured in the exhibition are the various depictions that some of the greatest artists have offered throughout the history of Dante’s narrative of Inferno, Purgatorioand Paradiso. It will be the nineteenth century, with the Romanticism of the Comedy, that will offer a new reading of the poem, particularly the Inferno, seen as an extraordinary repertoire of sublime themes, where characters such as Paolo and Francesca and Count Ugolino, Farinata and Pia de’ Tolomei emerge. Appearing here are works by Ary Scheffer, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, Moses Bianchi, Victor Prouvé, Gaetano Previati, Pierino da Vinci, Nicola Monti, Vitale Sala, Domenico Morelli, Fedi Cassioli, Albert Maignan, Camille Boiry, Gioacchino Assereto, Vincenzo Gemito, Henry de Groux, Franz von Stuck, and Carlo Fontana. The itinerary concludes with masterpieces inspired in their composition by the XXXIII canto of Paradise such as Tintoretto’s Vision of Paradise, Luca Signorelli’s St. Bernard’s Prayer, Matteo di Giovanni’s Madonna and Child, William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Virgin Consoler and Lorenzo Lotto’s Trinity.

“With the exhibition on Dante,” says the President of the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì, Roberto Pinza, “the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì confirms its vocation to enhance the cultural history of the territory and its treasures within a historical-artistic (and this year also literary) framework of a national and international character. Forlì is in fact a Dantean city in its own right, and in this year of celebrations of the poet of the Comedy it could not fail to propose a critical exploration of absolute importance and originality, starting from the historical figure of Alighieri and his political-diplomatic and artistic relations with the territory to investigate his fortune in the most recent ones, from the coincidence between the first steps of the newly formed unified state and the celebrations of the VI centenary of his birth, to the present day, in which the reopening of the Museums is meant to signify a more general restart of the life of all of us not only as individuals but that and above all as a community. The Foundation’s exhibitions have always been a bridge between the particular and the general, between the local and the global, on the cultural level as well as on the level of tourism and territorial development. Never as much as this year, celebrating one of the fathers of the nation, have we felt strongly and had confirmation of how culture represents an indispensable form of social development and how around it it is possible to find ourselves and rebuild social relations even in the most complex moments.”

“Having here in Forlì the most important exhibition, on a national scale, on the figure and works of Dante, in the year of the seven hundredth anniversary of his death,” says Forlì Mayor Gian Luca Zattini, “is an extraordinary event for our city. We are in front of an exhibition of indescribable scope that fully expresses, through its figurative power, the path of cultural growth made by our community in sixteen years of great exhibitions at the San Domenico Museums. After such a difficult year, indelibly marked by the wounds of Covid, it is good to get back on track by also focusing on culture and events of absolute quality like this one, with more than three hundred masterpieces. In this direction,the Municipal Administration, thanks to the valuable and constant contribution of the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì, is moving with renewed commitment to achieve a full appreciation of the artistic and monumental heritage of our city, through the celebration of its excellences all year round.”

“In this 2021, for the seven hundredth anniversary of Dante’s death,” emphasizes Uffizi director Eike Schmidt, “Italy solemnly commemorates the supreme poet for the fourth time, in grand style and at the national level. The Uffizi, which on previous occasions had limited itself to lending a few paintings or drawings to exhibitions organized by other institutions, held mainly in libraries, now for the first time takes an active role in sharing, promoting, researching and learning about Alighieri and his figurative fortune, culminating in a collaboration with the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì. By joining forces, in the San Domenico complex we are able to offer a unique opportunity to admire and study the traces of the Commedia and Vita Nova in Italian and European culture. It is not by chance that we have chosen Forli, one of the stages of Dante’s exile, moreover located on the road between Florence and Ravenna: a neutral place so as not to rekindle the age-old rivalry between the city of his birth and that of his death, but even more so to enhance the importance of Italy as a whole, to which Dante universally belongs. The Forlì exhibition has an encyclopedic set-up, in dealing with the many themes related to the figure of the Poet, and traverses the visual fortune of the Comedy through the centuries, bearing witness to it thanks to an unprecedented, resounding wealth of material and with works of the utmost importance.”

“Celebrating Dante in 2021,” recalls the director of major exhibitions of the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì, Gianfranco Brunelli, “means returning to the founding reasons of Italy and its civilization, oriented in a European perspective, in a suspended and decisive time such as this.Dante is the whole of his work not detached from the whole of his historical existential story. Certainly the Divine Comedy, especially the Comedy, but not only.I think I can say that if there is a truly complete and truly national exposition, in Dante’s centennial year, the one in Forlì registers to be so. Not only the Comedy is traced along the reflections that art has drawn from it, but all of Dante. A journey of art and a journey in art that ciconsents us to review Dante, his time and ours.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a volume edited by Gianfranco Brunelli, Fernando Mazzocca, Antonio Paolucci, Eike D. Schmidt, published by Silvana Editoriale (528 pages - 450 illustrations), with essays by Marco Antonio Bazzocchi, Alessandro Betori, Jan Blanc, Lina Bolzoni, Gianfranco Brunelli, Alberto Casadei, David Ekserdjian, Mario Finazzi, Francesco Leone, Fernando Mazzocca, Alessia Mistretta, Francesco Parisi, Paolo Procaccioli, Paola Refice, Lorenzo Riccardi, and Ulisse Tramonti. The San Domenico Museums also confirms its collaboration with Mediafriends, the non-profit association of Mediaset, Mondadori and Medusa in the name of solidarity. A well-established collaboration that has allowed, over time, to finance ten projects on the national territory, not forgetting complex realities in third world areas, thanks to the sale of tickets to the exhibition. In addition, training actions will be supported to promote youth volunteering, forms of active citizenship and civil solidarity.

Photo: Alessandro D’Este, Bust of Dante (1813; Rome, Musei Capitolini, Protomoteca Capitolina)

Largest-ever exhibition dedicated to Dante Alighieri opens in Forli
Largest-ever exhibition dedicated to Dante Alighieri opens in Forli

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