Amos Nattini and the Divine Comedy

Many artists have interpreted Dante's afterlife by letting themselves be inspired by the culture and fears of their time. Amos Nattini, between 1915 and 1939, undertakes this great project with passion and dedication, giving us an absolutely human and realistic version of it. His lithographs were published together with the Divine Comedy text in three volumes. The edition of the Cariparma Foundation is dated 1939.

Inferno Canto I (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno I

Dante after he came out of the dark forest: "And almost where the hillside starts to rise—look there!—a leopard, very quick and lithe,a leopard covered with a spotted hide.He did not disappear from sight, but stayed;indeed, he so impeded my ascent that I had often to turn back again."

Upset by the encounter with the beasts, he sees Virgil: "When I saw him in that vast wilderness, «Have pity on me», were the words I cried, «whatever you may be—a shade, a man». He answered me: «Not man; I once was man. Both of my parents came from Lombardy, and both claimed Mantua as native city.

Inferno Canto III (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno III

Dante and Virgil arrive on the bank of the Acheron, the infernal river.

Dante sees the crowded souls: "Then they forgathered, huddled in one throng, weeping aloud along that wretched shore which waits for all who have no fear of God".

"The demon Charon, with his eyes like embers,
by signaling to them, has all embark;
his oar strikes anyone who stretches out.".

Inferno Canto V (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno V

In the circle of the Lustful he meets Paolo and Francesca, the most famous lovers of literature.

She will be the one to speak: "Love, that releases no beloved from loving, took hold of me so strongly through his beauty that, as you see, it has not left me yet". No one who is loved can be condemned to return this love.

The cause of their sin was the reading of the novel by Lancelot and Guinevere that encouraged them to the first kiss: "while all his body trembled, kissed my mouth.
A Gallehault indeed, that book and he
who wrote it, too; that day we read no more.".

Inferno Canto X (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno X 

In the circle of the Heretics, Dante is frightened by a voice that comes from a grave.

Virgil invites him to turn around. "Turn round! What are you doing? That’s Farinata who has risen there — you will see all of him from the waist up.

Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline leader in Florence, predicts Dante’s future exile "...before you learn how heavy is that art".

Suddenly, from the tomb next to that of Farinata, Cavalcante Cavalcanti emerges. He’s looking for his son and asks Dante: "If it is your high intellect that lets you journey here, through this blind prison, where is my son?".

Inferno Canto XII (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno XII

In the circle of the Violents towards the Neighbor, Dante must cross the Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood.

Virgil explains the situation to the Centaur Chiron: "Chirón si volse in su la destra poppa, e disse a Nesso: «Then, return and be their guide; if other troops disturb you, fend them off».

Inferno Canto XXXIII (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inferno XXXIII

Dante arrives in the freezed Cocytus, in the ninth circle, where the Traitors of the Fatherland and of the Guests are punished. He sees Count Ugolino standing on top of Archbishop Ruggeri and he beastly bites his skull.

"That sinner raised his mouth from his fierce meal, then used the head that he had ripped apart in back: he wiped his lips upon its hair. Then he began: “You want me to renew
despairing pain that presses at my heart even as I think back, before I speak".

Purgatorio Canto II (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Purgatorio II

Dante and Virgil arrive on the beach at the foot of the mountain of Purgatory. They witness the arrival of some souls destined to pay for their sins on the mountain. Among these Dante meets his friend Casella, a Florentine musician.

Cato, guardian of Purgatory, interrupts the execution and he pushes the souls to resume their path of expiation: "What have we here, you laggard spirits? What negligence, what lingering is this? Quick, to the mountain to cast off the slough that will not let you see God show Himself".

Purgatorio Canto X (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Purgatorio X

Dante and Virgil are on the first frame, where they atone for the souls of the Proud who are forced to walk bent over the ground.

Dante asks Virgil for explanations: "Master, what I see moving toward us does not appear to me like people, but I can’t tell what is there— my sight’s bewildered". And he to me: "Whatever makes them suffer their heavy torment bends them to the ground; at first I was unsure of what they were".

Purgatorio Canto XIX (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Purgatorio XIX

On the fifth frame, where the souls of the greedy and the prodigal atone, Dante sees the souls of the penitents lying face down, crying, while reciting the psalm Adhaesit pavimento anima mea with deep sighs.

Among the souls Dante recognizes Pope Adrian V: "Who were you? And why are your backs turned up? And there — where I, alive, set out — would you have me beseech some good for you?".

And he to me: "Why Heaven turns our backs
against itself, you are to know; but first
scias quod ego fui successor Petri".

Purgatorio Canto XXXI (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Purgatorio XXXI

In the Earthly Paradise on the banks of the Lethe River, Dante is led before Beatrice, who reveals herself.

"Turn, Beatrice, o turn your holy eyes upon your faithful one, their song beseeched, who, that he might see you, has come so far".

"Out of your grace, do us this grace; unveil your lips to him, so that he may discern the second beauty you have kept concealed".

Paradiso Canto I (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Paradiso I

Dante and Beatrice ascend to Paradise through the sphere of fire, the intermediate area between the atmosphere of the Earth and the first celestial sphere, that of the sky of the Moon. Dante looks away from the sun and observes Beatrice, who in turn stares at the sky.

It is impossible to describe in words going beyond human nature: "Passing beyond the human cannot be worded... Whether I only was the part of me that You created last, You—governing the heavens—know: it was Your light that raised me".

Paradiso Canto XXXIII (1939/1939) by Amos NattiniCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Paradiso XXXIII

In the 10th Heaven, the Empyrean, Saint Bernard begs the Virgin Mary to grant Dante enough virtue to fix his gaze on the mind of God.

"Bernard was signaling — he smiled — to me to turn my eyes on high; but I, already was doing what he wanted me to do, because my sight, becoming pure, was able to penetrate the ray of Light more deeply — that Light, sublime, which in Itself is true".

Credits: Story

Text by Fondazione Cariparma and Artificio Società Cooperativa

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Parma 2020+21
Discover the excellence Italian Capital of Culture
View theme
Google apps