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A Portrait of Dante Without Home

Bruno Zanardi    Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo    



A small 19th century painting by an anonymous Master; a portrait of Dante, its subject; a note which reads ‘E. Degas’. These three elements form the basis of the study presented in this paper, which relates to a painting whose extremely high quality is self-evident, executed in the manner of old starting from an abbozzo, as not always was customary in 19th century, a painting which was in turn taken from Dante’s death-mask, which Degas among many other artists had drawn. Added to this is a small iconographical mystery: the poet’s face as depicted here is different from the usual depiction of the angry, elderly Florentine poet in exile. Indeed it shows a youth whose expression is at once enigmatic and appeased: could he be the Dante of Purgatory, known, from the Divine Comedy’s three cantiche to have been best loved by Degas? And if the author were not the youthful copyist Degas, is our painting then definitely by a French Master? Could the unique ‘young Dante’ be the work of a Nazarene or, rather, of a Purist? In short: ‘a painting, the philology and perhaps a name’.

July 31, 2018
May 14, 2018
March 22, 2018

Keywords: Paul DelarocheDelacroixDante’s maskAbbozzoDegasIngresKochMussiniVeit

Copyright: © 2018 Bruno Zanardi. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.