Salvador Dalí’s 100 Illustrations of Dante’s The Divine Comedy

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.

“Dali’s portrayal of Sordello drawing a line in Purgatory, delimiting his freedom once night falls.” Source: Library at University of Illinois 

“Dali’s depiction of the ‘Wood of Suicides’ from ‘Inferno’ 13″ Source: Library at University of Illinois 

The Reign of the Penitents

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….

Copies of The Divine Comedy can be downloaded from our collection of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

Related Content:

Gustave Doré’s Dramatic Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Alberto Martini’s Haunting Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1901-1944)

Physics from Hell: How Dante’s Inferno Inspired Galileo’s Physics


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  1. Steve Robinson says . . . | June 6, 2012 / 6:38 am

    My favorite Dali quote, when asked if he did drugs, said, “I don’t DO drugs, I AM drugs.”

  2. AHMET ISSEVER says . . . | June 6, 2012 / 7:43 am

    Why less surrealistic these. ? Peace

  3. sgtoox says . . . | June 6, 2012 / 9:16 pm

    The images are much nicer than his usual nonsense for being nonsense’s sake.

  4. Enrique E Zepeda says . . . | June 7, 2012 / 9:47 am

    Thanks for writing about one of the most beautiful illustrations made by Salvador Dalí for literary works. However, the data is unaccurate. Dalí must have been commissioned to work on this task since 1949. If you check the website http://www.dante-2000.de/TOCessay.htm you’ll see a watercolor from 1949-1950 with his remarks on his activity during 1949: As You Like it with Visconti, Don Juan Tenorio in Madrid, Salomé in the Uk and the Illustrations for the Divine Comedy commissioned by the Polygraphic State Institute Rome. In 1951-1952 during the First Hispano-American bienale in Madrid and Barcelona he exhibited some of his watercolors. In 1954 in Rome and Milan he exhibited all 102. In 1960 he exhibited 101 watercolors in Paris.
    Best regards,
    Enrique

  5. Andru says . . . | January 11, 2014 / 2:39 pm

    just because you dont like his other stuff doesnt make it nonsense

  6. Andru says . . . | January 11, 2014 / 2:40 pm

    Dali was scared to death of women.. maybe we was smarter than most of us..

  7. Muffin Gibraltar says . . . | January 12, 2014 / 12:56 am

    And while I can’t exactly place it, this reminds me of my childhood in pottytown.

  8. None says . . . | July 16, 2014 / 8:47 am

    Why no images? For real?

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