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Botticelli's Dante: The Drawings from The Divine Comedy (London)

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Sandro Botticelli was one of the greatest and most sophisticated draughtsmen of Renaissance Florence. This major exhibition presents the entire series of exquisite drawings created by Botticelli in the late fifteenth century to illustrate The Divine Comedy.

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      29.03.2001 19:05
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      This exhibition, in the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy is the first public display of Botticelli's illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy, which was never completed. There are over 80 drawings displayed in various stages of completion. The exhibition is separated into three galleries, logically divided into the Inferno (first room), Purgatory (second room) and Paradise (the third room). Botticelli follows Dante's lead almost entirely. Anyone familiar with Dante will recognise, immediately the course of his progress through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven with Virgil and then Beatrice as his guide. Anyone not familiar with Dante, don't fret! The gallery notes and the excellent audioguide lead you through the joint discovery of both artistic and literary treasures, exquisitely. As for the illustrations, well, I'm not a greatly knowledgeable arty type person, but this exhibition really affected me. I was fascinated, firstly, because these are drawings, rather than painting, one is able to appreciate the finer details of Botticelli's consummate skill. Some of the illustrations have been coloured-in (I'm sure there's a more technical term for this, but you know what I mean). Particularly impressive, is Botticelli's ability to reflect Dante's writing style, verse by verse, so when Dante's tone is comic, Botticelli draws in a comic style. Although it is only a small exhibition, it does warrant a few hours to see. I would definitely recommend the audioguide, particularly if you are not familiar with Dante. This was an exhibition which I felt delivered far more than it promised. It is simply amazing. The illustrations are enough to follow the story of Dante's journeys through from the depths of the pits of the Inferno through to the Garden of Earthly Paradise and to Paradise itself, up to the highest circle. For anyone with an interest in literature, renaissance ar
      t, religious painting, I would recommend it most heartily, to everyone else, I would say go along and try it, you might discover a part of it you never thought you would enjoy. It is quite expensive for such an exhibition, but I know I certainly intend to go back again before it closes, which I have never done for a paying art exhibition before!

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