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February 24, 2023

Going through Hell: The Divine Dante

Allegorical Portrait of Dante

Florentine 16th Century
Allegorical Portrait of Dante, late 16th century
oil on panel
overall: 126.9 x 120 cm (49 15/16 x 47 1/4 in.)
framed: 165.7 x 158.8 x 8.3 cm (65 1/4 x 62 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Samuel H. Kress Collection

Going through Hell: The Divine Dante
National Gallery of Art, Washington, April 9–July 16, 2023

When poet, writer, and philosopher Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) composed his Divine Comedy, he wrote it in the Florentine vernacular—the basis for the modern Italian language—making the manuscript more accessible to the general population of Florence, rather than in Latin, the language of the educated classes. The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia or simply Commedia in Italian) describes one man’s harrowing and transformational journey through three realms of the afterlife: Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paradiso).

Going through Hell: The Divine Dante explores the widespread cultural influence of this pivotal 700-year-old epic in some 20 works of art, all from the National Gallery’s collection. Beginning with the 16th-century painting Allegorical Portrait of Dante, these include rare early printed editions of the Divine Comedy, sculptures Auguste Rodin conceived for his monumental project The Gates of Hell, and works on paper from the 15th to 20th century by artists such as William Blake and Robert Rauschenberg.

The exhibition is curated by Gretchen Hirschauer, curator of Italian and Spanish paintings, National Gallery of Art.

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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