In the early 1950’s Dali was commissioned by the Italian government to create illustrations of the text of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” to be published by La Libreria dello Stato in honor of the upcoming septocentennial of the poet’s birth. There was, of course, negative feedback from Italians who thought it distasteful to have a Spanish artist and an irreverent Surrealist at that, be hired to illustrate what was widely considered to be the greatest and most respected epic poem in their nation’s history.
When the project was eventually dropped by the Italian government Dali brought what was created thus far to old friend and French art publisher Joseph Foret, who immediately found support for Dante’s illustrations with Parisian publishing house Editions d’Art les Heaures Claires. Over nine years in the making, the works were completed in 1960 and subsequently published as a set of six volumes between 1960 and 1964.
The suite, comprised of 101 watercolors, contains incredible imagery ranging from the grotesque to the sublime as our artist follows Dante from the deepest circles of Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory, and into heavenly Paradise. These works have been reproduced by the technique of wood engraving, engravers having carved 3,500 blocks for the prints – approximately 35 separate blocks per print. Dali himself thought this suite to be one of the most important of his career and it is considered by many today to be his most incredible and notable work.
For more information on The Devine Comedy, you can read the book online for free
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