Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

Probably Siena - Tuscany (Italy) — 1444–1450

Commissioned by the King of Aragon and Naples: the only consistently rich and magnificently illuminated codex of Dante's Divine Comedy

  1. The masterpiece of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), one of the greatest poets of all time

  2. Priamo della Quercia and Giovanni di Paolo designed the costly work at the behest of King Alfonso V (1396–1458)

  3. Nearly all of the 100 masterful, haunting miniatures are encompassed in an opulent gold frame

Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

The Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon was manufactured in Italy between 1442 and 1450 and is the only codex in which all three cantos of the famous poem by Dante Alighieri are downright lavishly illustrated. Two famous illuminators, Priamo della Quercia and Giovanni di Paolo, designed the costly work at the behest of King Alfonso V of Aragon and Naples, called the Magnanimous. The splendid codex is illustrated with 110 impressive miniatures in golden frames, as well as numerous elaborate initials.

Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

In the mid-15th century, Alfonso V of Aragon, King of Naples (1396–1458) commissioned an illustrated codex that is counted today among the most beautiful and elaborate manuscripts of the Italian Renaissance. The outstanding codex is a richly decorated edition of the famous Divine Comedy by arguably the greatest Italian poet, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The pages of the work are adorned with 110 splendid miniatures and countless unusually designed initials. This manuscript is the only codex worldwide, in which all three cantos of the famous poem are downright lavishly illustrated.

A Masterful Collaboration

Two different artists are responsible for the exceptional illustration of the precious manuscript. Both were famous and trendsetting masters of the Italy’s Sienese school. Priamo della Quercia (ca. 1400–67) transformed Dante’s thrilling descriptions of Inferno and Hell in breathtaking, terrifying visual scenes. The artist made all the historiated initials likewise. The second artist participating was Giovanni di Paolo (ca. 1403–82), who masterfully illustrated the spiritual descriptions of Paradise. His dreamy image scenes transplants their beholder into the conceptual world of the great poet Dante in a fabulous, surreal way. Both of the picture cycles stand in stark contrast to one another. Della Quercia’s dramatic terrifying images confront di Paolo’s beguiling, Tuscan-inspired landscapes.

Royal Composition

Alfonso the Magnanimous was, like all great Renaissance princes, an enthusiastic lover of arts and a book collector. No conceivable luxury was too expensive for his personal edition of the Divine Comedy. Nearly each of the haunting miniatures of the work is encompassed in an opulent gold frame. The costly, superimposed gold elements provide the special luminousness of the pictures, in particular the depiction of the heavens, in the scenes. The text of the manuscript was composed in an elegant, razor-sharp script ordered by gorgeous initials. With its enchanting illustrations and clearly legible script, the precious codex is also a true literary delight for modern readers as well.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
La Divina Commedia di Alfonso d'Aragona
Die Göttliche Komödie des Alfons von Aragon
Dante Alighieri, Divine Commedia
Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy of Alfonso V of Aragon
Dantes Göttliche Komödie des Alfons von Aragon
Size / Format
396 pages / 36.5 × 25.8 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1444–1450
Language
Script
Gothic Textura Rotunda
Illustrations
110 large miniatures, splendidly illuminated with bright colors and gold leaf
Content
Complete text of the Divine Comedy
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Fernando de Aragón, Duke of Calabria (1488–1550)
Convent of San Miguel, Valencia
Señor Luis Mayans
Henry Yates Thompson (1838–1928)

Available facsimile editions:
Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon – Ms. Yates Thompson 36 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2006
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Detail Picture

Divine Comedy by Alfonso of Aragon

Cast off!

This is a spectacular historiated initial showing a sailing ship within the loop of the “P” and its burnished gold background reminds us that this journey does not take place in the world of the living. Dante refers to ships throughout his famous magnum opus and often compares his spiritual journey to a sea voyage. Furthermore, there are two ships in the story: a ferry manned by Charon taking the damned across the river Acheron and a shipload of Christian souls being escorted by an angel.

La Divina Commedia di Alfonso d'Aragona
Single Page

Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon

Dante and Virgil

In a dark wood, Dante meets Virgil, his guide through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The beginning of this epic tale is depicted in the historiated “N” initial at hand, which is rendered in sumptuous gold leaf with tendrils of blue, green, and red. They are surrounded by four half-length figures in medallions representing Justice, Power, Peace and Temperance.

Dante is dressed in royal blue, Virgil in a radiant shade of magenta, both of whom are contrasted wonderfully by the deep green of the woods behind them. The coat of arms of this manuscript’s patron, King Alfonso V of Aragon, Naples, and Sicily, is depicted at the bottom of the page in a gold leaf barbed quatrefoil embossed with a diamond pattern.

La Divina Commedia di Alfonso d'Aragona
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Divina Commedia di Alfonso d'Aragona

Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon – Ms. Yates Thompson 36 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Divine Comedy of Alfonso of Aragon – Ms. Yates Thompson 36 – British Library (London, United Kingdom) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2006
Limited Edition: 750 copies
Binding: Silk velvet over wood boards featuring gilded silver decorations, clasps, and enamel work.
Commentary: 1 volume (340 pages) by Luca Azzetta, Milvia Bollati, Peter Kidd, Marco Petoletti, and Gennaro Toscano
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€€ (over 10,000€)
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