Some 500 years ago, Sandro Botticelli, (1444–1510) an Italian painter of humble origin, created work of unearthly beauty. He was commissioned by a member of the powerful Florentine Medici family to execute a near-impossible project: To illustrate all 100 cantos of The Divine Comedy by the city’s greatest poet, Dante Alighieri. The result of this powerful encounter between poet and artist, sacred and secular, earthly and ephemeral, was a series of stunning drawings, but Botticelli was never to finish the task. He declined into poverty and obscurity, and his illustrations went missing for 400 years.
Joseph Luzzi, a professor of comparative literature at Bard College, shares how the 19th-century rediscovery of Botticelli’s Dante drawings brought many to the belief that Botticelli’s work embodied everything the Renaissance had come to mean. He explains how and why Botticelli’s creations from the beauty of Primavera and the Birth of Venus to the drama of Dante’s Purgatorio—still move us today.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.