In Florence Cathedral, steps and a viewing platform have been added to enable an up-close look at Domenico di Michelino’s 1465 painting, Comedy Illuminating Florence. Part of the celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, the initiative sees three of the city’s top institutions – Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Opera di Santa Croce e la Certosa di Firenze – Comunità di San Leolino – partner for the first time in Florentine history.
“Domenico di Michelino’s painting is perhaps the most famous portrait of Dante Alighieri,” commented Antonio Natali in a press release. “It’s no coincidence that many exhibitions have requested it on loan in 2021, including shows that are enjoying the most attention from the press. However, it seemed unacceptable, during this year of Dante, to deprive Florence Cathedral for several months of a creation that the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore commissioned to celebrate the poet’s birth in the fifteenth century.”
In 1465, the cathedral’s administration commissioned the painting to mark the 200th anniversary of Dante’s birth in order to elevate the poet’s memory in Florence’s primary place of worship. The portrait was intended to replace a painting that had been created in the 1420s by Mariotto and showed Dante’s ashes returning to Florence. Domenico di Michelino’s depiction is an allegorical portrait of Dante, standing and wearing a laurel crown while holding a copy of the Divine Comedy in his left hand and indicating the Inferno to his right, with Purgatory and Paradise behind him. The Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s Dome appear on the canvas, the latter topped with a gold-covered bronze ball and cross that actually still had not been created at the time, but which the artist must have seen in Brunelleschi’s 1419 plans. We can also see the second city walls, the towers of the Bargello, Badia Fiorentina, Palazzo Vecchio and Giotto’s bell tower.
Visitors to the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore will be able to marvel at Domenico di Michelino’s 1465 painting, Comedy Illuminating Florence from May 14 to December 31, 2021.