Current Exhibition

Opened
September 14, 2021
Closes
December 19, 2021
Location
In the Gold, Picket Family Video, Moak, Schaenen, and Class of 1953 Galleries, Floor 2L

In 1892, as Willard Fiske, Cornell University’s first librarian, was restoring a villa near Florence, he impulsively purchased a 1536 edition of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and had it sent directly to Cornell—bookworms and all. Within a few years, the Fiske Dante Collection had grown to become one of the most significant such collections in the United States.

Visions of Dante is timed to mark the 700th anniversary of the death of this Florentine poet and artistic touchstone. This exhibition of approximately 100 works in various media explores the intensely visual nature of the Divine Comedy, presenting it as an inexhaustible source for artists, furthering Dante scholarship, and providing access for diverse learners to Dante’s concepts and themes.

Early printed editions introduce Dante as visual poet and show initial solutions to the challenge of illustrating the poem; they also serve as a reference point for the persistence of the Divine Comedy as muse through a range of later illustrated editions and portfolios by Giani, Flaxman, Blake, Doré, Dalí, and others. Library holdings are accompanied by works on paper, paintings, photographs, sculpture, and film by artists who treat Dante’s universal themes as catalysts for their own explorations of contemporary culture, mores, and self.

Visions of Dante is part of a Central New York Humanities Corridor collaboration with the University of Rochester around their project Dante Alighieri in Poppi 1321–2021 and a related exhibition at the Robbins Library.

The exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art is co-curated by Dr. Andrew C. Weislogel, the Johnson’s Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator of Earlier European and American Art, and Dr. Laurent Ferri, Curator of Pre-1800 Collections in Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The exhibition is supported in part by grants from the Corridor and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Visit the online exhibition hosted by Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.