VAC31 Visualizing Dante


The Visualizing Dante Working Group is composed of collections scholars in art museums and rare book libraries, dedicated to a collaborative, object-based exploration of how artists translate Dante’s rich imagery into visual terms.

Open to New People

Active since: 2020

  • Syracuse University
  • Cornell University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology

Collaborative Goals

With its legacy of over seven hundred years of study and translation, the Divine Comedy remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration for scholars and visual artists. With its object-based approach, the goal of the Visualizing Dante Working Group is to mine the holdings of their collections and those of other partners to examine the visual interpretation, translation, and continued relevance of Dante’s writings in various historical and cultural contexts, engaging students as presenters of this material in exhibitions and interrelated public programming.

This collaboration springs from preparations for a three-week Dante in Poppi research seminar to be led by University of Rochester occasional Visiting Professor and Italian Studies Abroad Professor Alessandra Baroni Vannucci for U of R graduate students in June 2021. This seminar, held in the Biblioteca Rilliana, one of the richest Italian collections of medieval manuscripts and fifteenth century printed books, will result in an exhibition and associated programming in the fall of 2021 at the U of R’s Robbins Library. A simultaneous exhibition at Cornell’s Johnson Museum of Art will present the Cornell Library’s Dante collection in its breadth for the first time, elucidating strengths and collecting history, with other works of art taking the Divine Comedy as a point of creative departure contextualizing and expanding the topic.

These exhibitions will be accompanied by a student-led exhibition tour and discussion at U of R, and a study day for students and faculty at Cornell. Collectively, the Poppi seminar and the proposed exhibitions and programs will examine 1) the early role of Dante as cultural catalyst through the examination of Dante manuscripts and editions, 2) the proliferation of non-Italian editions of the Divine Comedy and its importance in different cultural and national contexts, 3) the nineteenth-century “cult” of Dante as visually expressed in artworks and mass-marketed consumer items, and 4) the continued relevance of the Divine Comedy for artists, up to the present. Collaboration between U of R and Cornell and other CNYHC partners will allow students and faculty to experience both exhibitions and interact with their originators, while also presenting original research. Further, the foregrounding of these collections will catalyze their greater visibility for researchers across the region, while presenting library holdings as visual objects will engender interdisciplinary discussion.

Group Organizers

Jessica Lacher-Feldman

Exhibits and Special Projects Manager for Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, University of Rochester

Anna Siebach-Larsen

Librarian for Medieval Studies

Andrew C. Weislogel

Curator of Earlier European and American Art, Johnson Museum of Art

Laurent Ferri

Curator and Adjunct Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Anne Leone

Assistant Professor of Italian Studies