When Botticelli illustrated Dante

Mar 18, 2023 80

BY: Robert E. Hosmer Jr.

In the beginning, it was a project to illustrate all 100 cantos of what is arguably the greatest of all European poems. Then it was a magnificent portfolio of unfinished drawings hidden away for centuries. Then, in 1882, a shrewd German scholar orchestrated the purchase of 85 of them from a London bookseller and packed them off to Berlin as part of the Kaiser’s campaign to glorify the only recently unified Germany.

Now it is a collection unequally dispersed among three great museums. The story of Sandro Botticelli’s creation of a series of drawings to accompany Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” is just the beginning of the tale. Trying to determine what happened to the drawings after Botticelli’s death is complicated, puzzling, marked by gaps and subject to scholarly disagreement. 

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SOURCE: https://www.americamagazine.org

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