In 1957, the Italian government commissioned Salvador Dalí to paint a series of 100 watercolor illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the greatest literary work written in the Italian language. The illustrations were to be finished by 1965, the 700th anniversary of the poet’s birth, and then reproduced and released in limited print editions. The deal fell apart, however, when the Italian public learned that their literary patrimony had been put in the hands of a Spaniard. Undeterred, Dalí pushed forward on his own, painting illustrations for the epic poem that collectively recount Dante’s symbolic travels through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. After Dalí did his part, the project was handed over to two wood engravers, who spent five years hand-carving 3,500 blocks used to create the reproductions of Dalí’s masterpiece. Almost 50 years later, print editions can still be purchased online. And the paintings themselves still travel the globe, making their way to museums large and small. You can preview some of the images above and below.
A complete set of illustrations can be previewed here.
Meanwhile, some other day, we’ll tell you about Dalí’s Don Quixote trilogy. But that’s a story for another time….