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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Dante Alighieri

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danteali.jpg
Click picture to enlarge

Stefano Tofanelli (artist)
Raffaello Morghen (engraver)
Dante Alighieri
Circa 1826
Engraving on paper
6 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.
 
From the Collection of Mary Crane Hone.
Originally belonged to John Hone Jr.

Who was Dante Alighieri?

 

Durante (nicknamed Dante) Alighieri was a poet born in 1265 in Florence, Italy to a low-aristocratic family. Dante’s first studies were in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, literature and theology under the direction of Brunetto Latini. In his youth, he was a Stilnovo poet; Stilnovo meant the "New Style" of poetry which celebrated love to such an extent that it psychologically analyzed every emotion and sensation felt when one person loves another. Dante began studying theology and philosophy in depth, looking back to the teachings of Aristotle and St. Thomas.

 

In 1295, Dante began a political career by joining a Medical Corporation in Florence. At this time, the White Guelph party and the Black Guelph party were engaged in an intense political struggle. Dante, a proponent of the White Guelph party, decided to oppose Pope Boniface VIII's expansion plan, a plan backed by the Black Geulph party. When the Black Guelphs won against the White Guelphs, Dante was in trouble. He was forced to pay a fine and live two years in exile, but when he refuses to pay the fine, he was sentenced to death.

 

Dante began roaming many Italian courts, never again returning to his homeland of Florence. He stayed under the protection of Bartolomeo della Scala in Verona 1303. In 1306 he moved to Luagiana (a Tuscan region), then to Poppi and then to Lucca. In 1313 he went back to Verona, where he stayed till 1319. In the same year, he moved to Ravenna, to the court of Guido Novello da Polenta. He died there, in 1321.

 

During his lifetime, Dante composed many pieces of poetry, but his most famous work is the epic poem The Divine Comedy. The book is an allegorical vision of the Christian afterlife, and Dante tells of his journeys through the nine circles of Hell as he is led through them by the poet Virgil. After exiting Hell, he walks through the Terraces of Purgatory and the Spheres of Paradise. The book had a strong influence on writers, theorists, and artists after his time.

 

 

The Engraving

 

Like the portrait of Torquato Tasso, Dante Alighieri is portrayed with a laurel wreath adorning his head, glorifying him as an exceptional poet. In the engraving, he looks quite somber - possibly a cue taken from earlier portraits (around the 15th century) of the poet, in which he looks off in the distance, with a serious look on his face and a book in his hand. Here too, the tell-tale book that gives him away as a poet is in his hand.

 

The engraving's frame is carved wood with gesso.

 

 

The Painter: Stefano Tofanelli

 

Stefano Tofanelli was born in Lucca, Italy in 1750. He primarily made drawings for engravers, but he also painted altarpieces, mythological scenes, and portraiture. During his lifetime, he did several drawings for the engraver Raffaello Morghen, and of these drawings, many of them were copies of the Old Masters. Tofanelli died in Lucca in 1810 at the age of sixty.

 

 

The Engraver: Raffaello Morghen

 

In 1758, Raffaello Sanzio Morghen was born into a family of German engravers residing in Naples, Italy. His earliest teacher was his father, but he was soon placed under the direction of the celebrated Giovanni Volpato. He assisted his master with engraving the paintings of Raphael in Vatican City. Soon he was invited to Florence to engrave more paintings by the Old Masters, like Leonardo da Vinci, among others. In 1803, The Insitute of France elected him an associate, and in 1812, Napolean himself invited Morghen to Paris, where he paid him a great deal of attention. Not only was Morghen famous during his time; he was also quite prolific- he composed over 200 engravings  just while he was in Florence. Morghen died while in Florence in 1833.