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La Divina Commedia, Inferno XXXII. Ninth Circle (Cocytus), 1st and 2nd Strips: Punishment of relatives and fatherland traitors in the ice of the Caina and Antenora

Sandro Botticellica. 1481/1488

Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is one of the most important and complex works of world literature. It narrates over the course of 100 cantos the experiences of (a fictive version of) the author, as he travels through the three realms of the afterlife: Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (Mount Purgatory), and Paradiso (heavenly paradise). In the final years of the 15th century, almost 200 years after the Commedia was created, Sandro Botticelli undertook the immense task of furnishing this poetic vision of the universe with a set of accompanying pictures. His breathtakingly delicate pictures are drawn on vellum in silverpoint, which the artist would typically trace with brown ink, leaving behind in the process numerous pentimenti. These not only attest to the various artistic processes that went into the final rendering, but also bear witness to Botticelli’s struggle to translate the words into images. A small number of the sheets are coloured – including the depiction of Inferno XVIII, which numbers among the most extensively worked of the drawings.The successful acquisition of these 85 drawings for Berlin was an extraordinary stroke of luck, which retains to this day its legendary status in the annals of the Berlin museum collections. The drawings were discovered as early as 1854 by Gustav von Waagen in the library of the dukes of Hamilton in Scotland. When in 1882 it was announced that the Hamilton Collection was to be put up for sale, Friedrich Lipmann (then-director of the Kupferstichkabinett), supported by a number of committed friends of Berlin’s Royal Museums, set about securing the acquisition.

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  • Title: La Divina Commedia, Inferno XXXII. Ninth Circle (Cocytus), 1st and 2nd Strips: Punishment of relatives and fatherland traitors in the ice of the Caina and Antenora
  • Creator: Sandro Botticelli
  • Date: ca. 1481/1488
  • Physical Dimensions: w47 x h32.2 cm
  • Type: Drawing
  • Medium: Metal pen and quill in brown on parchment
  • Inv.-No.: Botticelli, Inferno 32
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-018511
  • External Link: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyright: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz │ Text © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Dagmar Korbacher
  • Collection: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Artist Place of Death: Florence, Italy
  • Artist Place of Birth: Florence, Italy
  • Artist Gender: Male
  • Artist Dates: 1445 - 1510

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