“Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars,” wrote Dante Alighieri, to describe the hopeful passage from hell to purgatory in his Divine Comedy, completed in 1320. These words were thought to have comforted the Renaissance painter Federico Zuccari at the end of the 16th century, when he was living away from his native Italy and illustrating Dante’s work. The line also provided inspiration for the Uffizi Gallery’s new online exhibition of Zuccari’s Divine Comedy drawings, timed to the 700-year anniversary of Dante’s death.
To call this show a rare thing would be an understatement. The 88-drawing collection, created in red and black ink, has never been displayed in full. In 1865, to mark both the 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth and the Italian unification, a number of sketches were shown in Florence. In 1993, a few others saw light in a small exhibition in Abruzzo. That’s it.