Leonardo Frigo’s « Dante’s Inferno »
Dante’s inferno has always inspired me since I was a child, I can probably say that it taught me to imagine and dream.
About the Art
Dante Alighieri was born in Florence to Alighiero di Bellincione and Bella degli Abati between May and June 1265 under the sign of Gemini (« when I first felt the Tuscan air » as he himself states in Paradise XII, 112 – 117). He was baptised with the name of Durante, of which Dante is a diminutive, on March 26th, 1266, the day of Holy Saturday. On that particular day in Florence it was customary to baptise at the baptistery of San Giovanni all the children born during the last year. Alighiero also had another wife, Lapa of Chiarissimo Cialuffi, with whom he had two other children, Francesco and Gaetana.
In 1285 Dante married Gemma of Manetto Donati and he had three sons from her and (perhaps) a daughter: Giovanni, Iacopo, Pietro and Antonia. The latter probably became a nun and took the name of Sister Beatrice. In 1289 he participated in the battle of Campaldino, in which the Florentines defeated the Aretini, and in the storming of Caprona. In 1295 his political career began with the enrolment in the Arte de Medici e Speziali, one of the seven guilds of arts and crafts that contributed to the economic development of Florence in the Middle Ages. He was a member of the council of the Hundred and was finally elected prior from June 15th to August 15th, 1300.
Pope Boniface VIII, when the imperial seat was vacant, he tried to interfere in the political affairs of Florence to extend his dominion over the whole Tuscany. Furthermore, the discrepancies between the landed aristocracy and the powerful merchant class led to the splitting of the Guelphs into two factions, White and Black, headed, respectively, by the Cerchi and the Donati families. The Black Guelphs favoured papal ambitions while the Whites defended the independence of their city at all costs. During the priory, Dante sent the leaders of the two factions into exile. The provision, however, it didn’t help because it resulted in an increase in exasperation between the two parties. It was in this heated context that Dante chose to take the side of the Whites. Boniface VIII sent Carlo of Valois to Florence to calm the conflicts between the two factions. He, at his first chance, exiled the White Guelphs from the city in 1301.
In 1302 Dante was sentenced to pay a fine of 5000 florins as he was unjustly accused of fraud and to practise barratry. Dante didn’t pay the fine and so he was sentenced to the stake. Therefore, he was forced to go into exile to avoid conviction. The poet was involved in the first attempts of the Whites to regain control of Florence, but they were all in vain. After a long wandering in search of asylum throughout Italy, he arrived in Ravenna in 1318 and settled at the court of Guido of Polenta. Here he died in September 1321 and was buried in the Franciscan church that they remained, in his eyes, the purest expression of the Christian clergy. Many years later, in 1780, the cardinal legate Luigi Valenti Gonzaga erected a neoclassical sepulchre for the poet, designed by the Ravenna architect Camillo Morigia, to restore nobility and decorum to his burial.