In commemoration of the 700th anniversary of of Dante Alighieri's death, we are exhibiting the complete collection of Salvador Dali's prints depicting scenes from The Divine Comedy.
In 1957, the Italian government commissioned Dali to create a complete set of illustrations for Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the author’s birth. Dali began the arduous task of selecting imagery and creating a watercolor painting for each of the 100 cantos of the poem. Shortly after Dali started the project, the Italian government withdrew its commission. Italian citizens had been outraged that a Spanish artist had been selected for this undertaking, instead of inviting an Italian artist to honor one of Italy’s greatest authors. However, it was very fitting that one of the leading artists in the Surrealist movement would be chosen to interpret the bizarre punishments of Inferno and Purgatorio and the fantastical images of Paradiso that Dante created – drawing inspiration from classical and biblical imagery, as well as his own imagination. Interestingly, the Italian government did not select an Italian artist to complete this tribute in Dali’s place. Fortunately, Dali did not abandon his suite of watercolor illustrations, and he finished them nine years later – with complete confidence that someone would want to take on the colossal task of hand carving plates, printing the illustrations, and publishing them. The watercolors were published as wood engravings by Jean Estrade of Les Heures Claures.