Through the Dante Urbinate: the journey begins

Miniatura dalla Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri, Ms. Urb. lat. 365, c. 1r, 1478-1482, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

Today marks the beginning of our journey of discovery through the pages of the Dante Urbinate, one of the most priceless masterpieces of the Renaissance.

As we celebrate 700 years since the death of Dante, the publishing company Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, in collaboration with the Vatican Apostolic Library, has published a collection of critical essays to accompany the most recent facsimile edition of the precious codex. This commentary offers a complete description of all the miniature illustrations and decorations in the manuscript and was produced in collaboration with well-known experts on the subject. Our journey will be based on this very volume!

The Divina Commedia, here masterfully illustrated, immediately proved to be incredibly popular. Hundreds of copies were made and distributed across Europe, thus quickly making the Commedia the most widely distributed book other than the Bible. By the end of the 16th century, Dante’s work had been also been issued in several printed editions. Many renowned libraries around the world are lucky enough to still house volumes from these precious early editions.

The Vatican Apostolic Library holds around forty manuscripts of the complete or nearly complete text of the Divina Commedia. Many of these volumes stand as great works of art by themselves, as they are richly decorated by famous and acclaimed painters, miniaturists, and illustrators.
The Dante Urbinate stands out among these magnificent works and it occupies its own place in art history.

Source: Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, Una nuova lettura della Commedia (A New Reading of the Divine Comedy), “La Divina Commedia di Federico da Montefeltro. Il Dante Urbinate. Commentario”.

Illumination from Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, Ms. Urb. lat. 365, f. 1r, 1478-1482, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

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