The Dante Historiato is considered one of the most significant and interesting collections of illustrations of Dante's depiction of the afterlife. With its powerful imagery, this collection has certainly more impact than words. Dated to the last quarter of the sixteenth century, Dante Historiato is a work produced in Spain by Federico Zuccaro (1540-1609). With its eighty-eight drawings, this work features the most spectacular scenes of the Divina Commedia, with an original interpretation by the artist.
This collection of drawings was made between 1586 and 1588 at the time when Zuccaro had been summoned by Philip II of Spain, to the Royal residency of El Escorial. The artist had by this time taken part in the continuation of the Paoline chapel initiated by Michelangelo, thus increasing his fame beyond Italy.
Zuccaro's Original Interpretation of Dante's Comedy
The collection contains the drawings of Dante's Divine Comedy as imagined by Zuccaro. These, however, are not only the result of the original and free interpretation of the artist, but they also represent a deep understanding, knowledge, and cultural in-depth analysis, in addition to his association with the most distinguished scholars and intellectuals of the time.
Of the eighty-eight drawings, twenty-eight are dedicated to the depiction of Hell, forty-nine to Purgatory, and eleven to Paradise. While Hell and Paradise are illustrated by using the black and red pencil technique, Purgatory is depicted with pen and watercolor technique. On the verso of each illustration is an autograph transcription of Dante's text by Zuccaro.
At the time of Zuccaro's death in 1609, his collection of drawings fell into the possession of the Orsini family, for which the artist had previously worked on the occasion of the wedding of Paolo Giordano Orsini and Isabella de' Medici. The book was later passed on to the Medici family and finally ended up in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.