Explore Divine Comedy Digital, a New Digital Database That Collects Seven Centuries of Art Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy

The num­ber of art­works inspired by Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy in the sev­en hun­dred years since the poet com­plet­ed his epic, ver­nac­u­lar mas­ter­work is so vast that refer­ring to the poem inevitably means refer­ring to its illus­tra­tions. These began appear­ing decades after the poet­’s death, and they have not stopped appear­ing since. Indeed, it might be fair to say that the title Divine Com­e­dy (sim­ply called Com­e­dy before 1555) names not only an epic poem but also its many con­stel­la­tions of art­works and inter­pre­ta­tions, which would have filled a mod­est-sized set of Dante ency­clo­pe­dias before the inter­net.

Luck­i­ly for art his­to­ri­ans and Dante schol­ars work­ing today, there is now Divine Com­e­dy Dig­i­tal, a beau­ti­ful­ly designed data­base which brings these art­works — spread out all over the world — togeth­er in one vir­tu­al place.

The inter­face requires no spe­cial Dante knowl­edge to nav­i­gate, though it helps to be famil­iar with the poem and/or have a ref­er­ence copy near­by when look­ing through the menus. Divid­ing neat­ly into the poem’s three books (or can­tiche), the menu at the left fur­ther breaks down into cir­cles (Infer­no), ter­races (Pur­ga­to­rio), and Can­tos (all three books).

Tog­gling between options in a menu on the right allows vis­i­tors to see the num­ber of illus­trat­ed vers­es in each Can­to or the num­ber of art­works. With­in a mat­ter of min­utes, you’ll be dis­cov­er­ing Dante illus­tra­tions you nev­er knew exist­ed, from Sal­vador Dali’s The Delight­ful Mount (1950, above) to Alessan­dro Vel­lutel­lo’s Dante and St. Bernard, Mary and the Trin­i­ty (1544) and hun­dreds of oth­ers in the years in-between.

Call­ing itself a “slow surf­ing site,” Divine Com­e­dy Dig­i­tal con­tains a handy tuto­r­i­al if you do get lost and allows users “not only to nav­i­gate through the col­lec­tion, but also to sug­gest miss­ing art­works.” So far, the 17th and 18th cen­turies are huge­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed, though not for a lack of Dante-inspired art­work made in that two-hun­dred year peri­od. The gaps mean there is much more Dante art to come.

Released in June of this year, the project is the work of The Visu­al Agency, “an infor­ma­tion design agency spe­cial­ized in data-visu­al­iza­tion based in Milan and Dubai” and was cre­at­ed to cel­e­brate the 700th anniver­sary of Dante’s death. As he con­tin­ues to inspire artists for the next few hun­dred years, per­haps the work based on his epic poem will trend more dig­i­tal than medieval, cre­at­ing inter­pre­ta­tions the poet nev­er could have dreamt. Enter the Divine Com­e­dy Dig­i­tal project here.

You can also see some of the ear­li­est illus­trat­ed edi­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy (1487–1568), cour­tesy of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Free Course on Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Rarely-Seen Illus­tra­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy Are Now Free Online, Cour­tesy of the Uffizi Gallery

Mœbius Illus­trates Dante’s Par­adiso

Artists Illus­trate Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy Through the Ages: Doré, Blake, Bot­ti­cel­li, Mœbius & More

Visu­al­iz­ing Dante’s Hell: See Maps & Draw­ings of Dante’s Infer­no from the Renais­sance Through Today

Hear Dante’s Infer­no Read Aloud by Influ­en­tial Poet & Trans­la­tor John Cia­r­di (1954)

A Dig­i­tal Archive of the Ear­li­est Illus­trat­ed Edi­tions of Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy (1487–1568)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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