Dante Alighieri on the Web
http://www.greatdante.net
Portrait of Dante Alighieri
Luca Signorelli (1455?-1523)
Portrait of Dante Alighieri
Detail of the frescos in the Dome of Orvieto

A Commedia Art Gallery

The long series of paintings, engravings and illustrations inspired from Dante’s Commedia are yet another proof of the great success of the poem over the centuries.
Besides that, we should also consider the various pictures as interpretations, or better reading over, of the poem, where the figurative artist expresses his own view of the world, his cultural background and his personal thoughts, through his work. This is especially true referred to modern artists, who put their individualisms before Dante’s choral view, but should be applied to every illustrator, from Botticelli who represents his humanism up to pop artists who immerse the horrors of Hell in a contemporary chaotic world.
In this page I don’t want to deepen in the artistical aspects of the few works proposed, but I’m just showing some notable works among the many inspired from the Commedia along with the particular passage represented or which gave inspiration for the work, provided with a free prose translation.

A note: please, don’t ask me for any bigger, hi-res version of any of these pictures because I don’t have it.

The images on this page are 567 Kbytes big altogether, so they could take a while to load completely.

Portrait of Dante

Andrea del Castagno
Portrait of Dante
Fresco in the Uffizi (Florence)

Image courtesy of Vern Blunk (vblunk (at) fast (dot) net)

Domenico di Michelino (1417-1491)
Dante and his poem
Fresco in the Dome of Florence

Dante and his poem

Title page to the first book Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!
Inferno, Canto I, vv. 1-6

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
since I had lost the straight way.
Alas, how hard is to tell how this
wild and tough wood was
so that if I think back on it I become scared again!

Anonymous Italian artist of the 15th century
Title page to the first book
Engraving

"Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,
la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu ’l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante".
Mentre che l’uno spirto questo disse,
l’altro piangea; sì che di pietade
io venni men così com’io morisse.
E caddi come corpo morto cade.
Inferno, Canto 5th, vv. 133-142

"When we read about that longing mouth
being kissed by that famous lover,
he [Paolo], who won’t ever be divided from me,
kissed my mouth while trembling.
The book and his author were our Galeotto:
we read no further from that day on".
While a spirit of the two was saying that to me,
the other was crying; so that I fainted for
the pity.
I fainted like a dead corpse falls.

William Blake (1757-1827)
Paolo and Francesca
Engraving

Paolo and Francesca

Cerbero E ’l duca mio distese le sue spanne,
prese la terra, e con piene le pugna
la gittò dentro a le bramose canne.
Qual è quel cane ch’abbaiando agogna,
e si racqueta poi che ’l pasto morde,
ché solo a divorarlo intende e pugna,
cotai si fecer quelle facce lorde
de lo demonio Cerbero, che ’ntrona
l’anime sì, ch’esser vorrebber sorde.
Noi passavam su per l’ombre che adona
la greve pioggia, e ponavam le piante
sovra lor vanità che par persona.
Elle giacean per terra tutte quante,
fuor d’una ch’a seder si levò, ratto
ch’ella ci vide passarsi davante.
Inferno, Canto 6th, vv. 25-39

And my leader stretched his hands out,
took some clay in his fists
and threw it into that yearning jaws.
Like a dog barking for hunger
which calms down after biting into its meal,
and whose only desire is to eat and devour,
in a similar way Cerbero’s filthy faces changed,
the faces of the demon who can stun
the souls so that they’d rather be deaf.
We walked onto those souls crushed
by the heavy rain, and we put our footsteps
above their human like soul.
They all were laid down,
except for one who quickly raised sitting,
as soon as he had seen us passing.

Guglielmo Giraldi (1445?-1489)
Cerbero
Miniature

Tosto che ’l duca e io nel legno fui,
segando se ne va l’antica prora
de l’acqua più che non suol con altrui.
Mentre noi corravam la morta gora,
dinanzi mi si fece un pien di fango,
e disse: "Chi se’ tu che vieni anzi ora?".
E io a lui: "S’i’ vegno, non rimango;
ma tu chi se’, che sì se’ fatto brutto?".
Rispuose: "Vedi che son un che piango".
E io a lui: "Con piangere e con lutto,
spirito maladetto, ti rimani;
ch’i’ ti conosco, ancor sie lordo tutto".
Allor distese al legno ambo le mani;
per che ’l maestro accorto lo sospinse,
dicendo: "Via costà con li altri cani!".
Inferno, Canto 8th, vv. 28-42

As soon as my leader and I were in the boat,
it went through the water,
plunging more than with anybody else.
While we were crossing the dead swamp,
a spirit dirty with mud put himself oppposite me
and said :"Who are you moving forward?".
And I asnwered: "I’m coming, but I won’t stay here;
but who are you, turned so ugly?".
He said: "As you can see, I’m a crying soul".
And I replyed: "You are truly painful and upset,
oh cursed spirit, so that
I can recognize you, even if you’re completely filthy".
Then, he stretched his arms to the boat;
but my master wisely drove him back,
saying :"Go away with all the others!".

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
La Barque de Dante
Oil painting on canvas

La Barque de Dante

Nesso the Centaur Or ci movemmo con la scorta fida
lungo la proda del bollor vermiglio,
dove i bolliti facieno alte strida.
Inferno, Canto 12th, vv. 100-102

Now we were moving on with the reliable escort
along the river with boiling red blood,
where the people boiling in it cried out loud.

Guglielmo Giraldi (1445?-1489)
Nesso the Centaur
Miniature

Non fronda verde, ma di color fosco;
non rami schietti, ma nodosi e ’nvolti;
non pomi v’eran, ma stecchi con tòsco:
non han sì aspri sterpi né sì folti
quelle fiere selvagge che ’n odio hanno
tra Cecina e Corneto i luoghi cólti.
Quivi le brutte Arpie lor nidi fanno,
che cacciar de le Strofade i Troiani
con tristo annunzio di futuro danno.
Ali hanno late, e colli e visi umani,
piè con artigli, e pennuto ’l gran ventre;
fanno lamenti in su li alberi strani.
Inferno, Canto 13th, vv. 4-15

There were no green leaves, but dark ones;
no straight branches, but gnarled and twisted ones;
there were no fruits, but poisonous thorns:
the savage beasts living between Cecina and Corneto
which hate cultivated fields don’t have
such a harsh and thick vegetation.
The dirty Harpies make their nests here,
the Harpies who chased the Troians away from the Strofade
with a sad prophecy about a future misfortune.
They have wide flags, and human faces and necks,
taloned foots, a big feathered bosom;
they shrieks from the unnatural trees.

Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
The Harpies
Engraving

The Harpies

First and second bolgias Di qua, di là, su per lo sasso tetro
vidi demon cornuti con gran ferze,
che li battien crudelmente di retro.
Ahi come facean lor levar le berze
a le prime percosse! già nessuno
le seconde aspettava né le terze.
[...]
Quivi venimmo; e quindi giù nel fosso
vidi gente attuffata in uno sterco
che da li uman privadi parea mosso.
Inferno, Canto 18th, vv. 34-39 and 112-114

Here, there, above the dark stone
I saw horned demons with big whips,
cruelly beating those on their backs.
Alas, they could really make them
rush off by hitting them! Nobody waited
for the second or the third round.
[...]
We came here; and I saw down in the ditch
people plunged in dung which
seemed like it was from human latrines.

Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510)
First and second bolgias
Drawing

Vidi presso di me un veglio solo,
degno di tanta reverenza in vista,
che più non dee a padre alcun figliuolo.
Lunga la barba e di pel bianco mista
portava, a’ suoi capelli simigliante,
de’ quai cadeva al petto doppia lista.
Li raggi de le quattro luci sante
fregiavan sì la sua faccia di lume,
ch’i’ ’l vedea come ’l sol fosse davante.
Purgatorio, Canto 1st, vv. 31-39

I saw there a venerable old person [Cato],
so remarkably respectful that no
child owes more respect to his father.
He had a long greying beard,
just like his hair which fell
on his bosom into two locks.
The rays from the four holy lights
lighted his face up so brightly
that it was like if he had been opposite the sun.

Anonymous Italian artist of the 15th century
Title page to the second book
Engraving

Title page to the second book

Buonconte da Montefeltro Io dirò vero e tu ’l ridì tra ’ vivi:
l’angel di Dio mi prese, e quel d’inferno
gridava: "O tu del ciel, perché mi privi?
Tu te ne porti di costui l’etterno
per una lagrimetta che ’l mi toglie;
ma io farò de l’altro altro governo!".
Purgatorio, Canto 5th, vv- 103-108

I’ll tell you the truth, and you will repeat it to the living:
the angel of God took me and Satan
cried: "You from heaven, why are you depriving me of him?
Why do you take with you this soul,
only because he has repented?
I’m going to do what I like with his body."

Johann Heinrich Fuessli (1741-1825)
Buonconte da Montefeltro
Pen drawing with water-color

E ’l buon Sordello in terra fregò ’l dito,
dicendo: "Vedi? sola questa riga
non varcheresti dopo ’l sol partito:
non però ch’altra cosa desse briga,
che la notturna tenebra, ad ir suso;
quella col nonpoder la voglia intriga.
Purgatorio, Canto 7th, vv. 52-57

And the good Sordello rubbed his finger on the ground,
saying: "You see? You couldn’t cross
this line after the sunset:
but that would be the only obstacle
to your ascending this hill;
the darkness weakens your will to continue"

Salvator Dali’ (1904-1989)
Sordello da Goito
Pencil and tempera

Sordello da Goito

The entrance to Purgatory Divoto mi gittai a’ santi piedi;
misericordia chiesi e ch’el m’aprisse,
ma tre volte nel petto pria mi diedi.
Sette P ne la fronte mi descrisse
col punton de la spada, e "Fa che lavi,
quando se’ dentro, queste piaghe", disse.
Purgatorio, Canto 9th, vv. 109-114

I kneeled down to his [the angel’s] feet with devotion;
I asked for forgiveness and to open the door,
but only after beating three times on my chest.
He outlined three Ps on my forehead
with the tip of the sword, and said "Remember
to clean these sores once you’re inside".

Anonymous Italian artist of the 14th century
The entrance to Purgatory
Miniature

E là m’apparve, sì com’elli appare
subitamente cosa che disvia
per maraviglia tutto altro pensare,
una donna soletta che si gia
e cantando e scegliendo fior da fiore
ond’era pinta tutta la sua via.
Purgatorio, Canto 28th, vv. 37-42

There she appeared to me, just like when
something which makes you forget
about everything else because you’re in wonder.
She was a lonely woman hanging around
and singing while picking up flowers
which also colored the path she was running along.

Anonymous Italian artist of the 14th century
Matelda
Miniature

Matelda

The divine Procession Mentr’io m’andava tra tante primizie
de l’etterno piacer tutto sospeso,
e disioso ancora a più letizie,
dinanzi a noi, tal quale un foco acceso,
ci si fé l’aere sotto i verdi rami;
e ’l dolce suon per canti era già inteso.
Purgatorio, Canto 29th, vv. 31-36

While I was going throw the first
experiences of eternal pleasure, in complete bliss,
and longing for even bigger delights,
the air in front of us, beneath some green branches,
turned like a lit fire;
and we heard and recognized a sweet singing sound.

Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510)
The divine Procession
Drawing

La gloria di colui che tutto move
per l’universo penetra, e risplende
in una parte più e meno altrove.
Nel ciel che più de la sua luce prende
fu’ io, e vidi cose che ridire
né sa né può chi di là sù discende;
perché appressando sé al suo disire,
nostro intelletto si profonda tanto,
che dietro la memoria non può ire.
Paradiso, Canto 1st, vv. 1-9

The glory of the One moving everything
penetrates through the universe and shines
somewhere more and somewhere less.
I was in the Empyrean
and I saw things which nobody
coming back from there can tell about;
because when our intellect is so nearby what
it longs for, it immerges itself in deep thoughts
so that the memory can’t remember.

Anonymous Italian artist of the 15th century
Title page to the third book
Engraving

Title page to the third book

Dante and Beatrice in the sphere of the Moon Questi organi del mondo così vanno,
come tu vedi omai, di grado in grado,
che di sù prendono e di sotto fanno.
Paradiso, Canto 2nd, vv- 121-123

Now you can see how the skies work:
they’re ordered like stairs
and each is moved from the one above and moves the one below.

Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510)
Dante and Beatrice in the sphere of the Moon
Drawing

"In quella parte de la terra prava
italica che siede tra Rialto
e le fontane di Brenta e di Piava,
si leva un colle, e non surge molt’alto,
là onde scese già una facella
che fece a la contrada un grande assalto.
D’una radice nacqui e io ed ella:
Cunizza fui chiamata, e qui refulgo
perché mi vinse il lume d’esta stella;
Paradiso, Canto 9th, vv. 25-33

"There’s a hill not so high
in that part of Italy which is between
Rialto and the sources of the Brenta and the Piave,
from where came a man
who plagued greatly the entire region.
I’m his sister and I was
named Cunizza; I shine here
because the influence of Venus led me through my life".

Giovanni di Paolo (1400?-1482?)
Cunizza da Romano
Miniature

Cunizza da Romano

Cacciaguida Poi seguitai lo ’mperador Currado;
ed el mi cinse de la sua milizia,
tanto per bene ovrar li venni in grado.
Dietro li andai incontro a la nequizia
di quella legge il cui popolo usurpa,
per colpa d’i pastor, vostra giustizia.
Quivi fu’ io da quella gente turpa
disviluppato dal mondo fallace,
lo cui amor molt’anime deturpa;
e venni dal martiro a questa pace".
Paradiso, Canto 15th, vv. 139-148

Then I followed Corrado the Emperor;
and he appointed me as a knight
since I did so many services for him.
I followed him to fight the injustice
of that religion which usurps, because
of the pontiffs’ faults, what should be yours.
I was removed from the misleading world,
which diverts many souls,
by those unfaithful men;
and I came there in peace after my martyrdom".

Giovanni di Paolo (1400?-1482?)
Cacciaguida
Miniature

Parea dinanzi a me con l’ali aperte
la bella image che nel dolce frui
liete facevan l’anime conserte;
Paradiso, Canto 19th, vv. 1-3

The beautiful image formed with the
glad souls gathered together in sweet bliss
appeared in front of me with spread out wings.

Anonymous Italian artist of the 15th century
The Imperial eagle
Miniature

The Imperial eagle

Apparition of Christ Vid’i’ sopra migliaia di lucerne
un sol che tutte quante l’accendea,
come fa ’l nostro le viste superne;
e per la viva luce trasparea
la lucente sustanza tanto chiara
nel viso mio, che non la sostenea.
Paradiso, Canto 23rd, vv. 28-33

I saw, above thousands of flames,
a sun lighting them all,
like our sun does with the stars;
and the splendid figure could
be seen through the light so bright
that my face couldn’t stand it.

Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510)
Apparition of Christ
Drawing

Come sùbito lampo che discetti
li spiriti visivi, sì che priva
da l’atto l’occhio di più forti obietti,
così mi circunfulse luce viva,
e lasciommi fasciato di tal velo
del suo fulgor, che nulla m’appariva.
Paradiso, Canto 30th, vv. 46-51

Like a sudden flash which immediately
blinds you, so that the eye can’t see any more,
a brillant light surrounded me
and I was wrapped up by that
glitter so that I was unable to distinguish anything.

Salvador Dali’ (1904-1989)
Dante ascending the Empyrean
Pencil and tempera

Dante ascending the Empyrean

The white rose In forma dunque di candida rosa
mi si mostrava la milizia santa
che nel suo sangue Cristo fece sposa
Paradiso, Canto 31st, vv. 1-3

The holy army, which is joined together
with Christ in His blood,
was showing taking a white rose shape.

Gustave Dorè (1832-1883)
The white rose
Engraving

All pictures taken from "La Divina Commedia illustrata attraverso i secoli", Selezione dal Reader’s Digest S.p.A., 1967. All rights reserved.