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Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321)

Divina Commedia (Codex Severoli), 1378

The Divine Comedy is the story of Dante's imaginary voyage, guided by Virgil and then by Beatrice, from Hell to Paradise by way of Purgatory; the rhymed poem is written in Tuscan, the madre lingua which will evolve into Italian. Along the way, the poet meets mythological, historical and contemporary figures, each of whom personifies a religious or political virtue. This summa achieved unprecedented success: even before the 15th century, many Italian cities established university chairs devoted solely to the study of the Divine Comedy. The poem's evocative strength was also a great inspiration to artists, composers and poets, including Botticelli, Michelangelo, Delacroix, Blake, Doré, Rossini, Schumann, Liszt, Eliot, d'Annunzio and Claudel.

In addition to its rustic borders, the Codex Bodmer (formerly Codex Severoli), signed by Francesco di maestro Tura de Cesena, contains three historiated capitals on the openings pages of the three books of the Divine Comedy. The initial N at the beginning of the Inferno shows Dante and his guide, Virgil, in the middle of the desert. A lion and a wolf, two fierce beasts symbolizing pride and avarice, bar their way.

Parchment, Italy, page 27r
33.4 x 22.3 cm
CBodmer 57

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