Let’s discover the wonderful exhibition dedicated to Dante at the Bargello

exhibition dante bargello

Bargello’s reopening with lots of news

With its reopening after the restrictions on account of the pandemic, the Bargello Museum presents some really important news for visitors who will go or come back to visit it.

The first of these is the new arrangement of the Ivory Room; the artefacts exhibited there, of exceptional value given their rarity, can now be seen placed in new showcases that finally enhance much more their workmanship and preciousness: from the Flabellum of Tournus to the small plates with the numerous assaults on the castle of love, for ending with the very refined combs and chessboards, the works can now be admired in a literally different light.

The exhibition dedicated to Dante at the Bargello

The other great novelty of this reopening after the closures due to restrictions is the great exhibition dedicated to Dante Alghieri, inaugurated on May 11th and entitled “Onorevole e antico cittadino di Firenze. Il Bargello per Dante” (Honorable and ancient citizen of Florence. The Bargello for Dante). ”.

The exhibition, curated by Luca Azzetta, Sonia Chiodo and Teresa De Robertis, professors of the Florentine university, is dedicated to the reconstruction of the bond between Dante and Florence from the years immediately following the poet’s death – 1321, of which this year is precisely the seven hundredth anniversary – up to the fifties of the fourteenth century, thanks above all to the precious testimonies of the copies of the Commedia produced starting from that period and which have been preserved. The manuscripts on display in the exhibition, some of admirable beauty also thanks to the illuminations that embellish them, have been loaned by the three important Florentine libraries – the Laurenziana Library, the Riccardiana and the National Library – as well as by other national and foreign institutions. The exhibition therefore allows to make an itinerary in the tradition of the Divine Comedy and its fortune and diffusion in Florence after the death of the ‘Supreme Poet’.

A significant tradition of copyists and illuminators

One of the valid reasons to visit the exhibition is to visualize the focus on the part of institutions and curators towards the panorama about the copyists and illuminators’ activity in Florence between the thirties and fifties of the century, a period in which we find expert notaries intent on transcribing the Dante’s work, as it was already usual for them to do with classical texts. It could then happen for example that the Florentine notary Francesco di ser Nardo da Barberino made the copy of one of the most important codices of the Comedy, kept in the Trivulziana Library in Milan and now on display, an interesting manuscript because the miniature with which it comes shows Dante in Paradise, depicted for the first time crowned by Apollo with the poetic laurel. The focus then goes to be the tie between Florence, the city that had expelled him, and the poet, at the moment in which in the city «a process of re-elaboration of memory takes place and leads to re-welcoming and affirming the work and the figure» of Alghieri. This process results in an unprecedented phenomenon in local literary history: over a period of twenty-five years there is a large production of copies aimed at «satisfying the hunger for Comedy of an entire city».

At the time when Boccaccio made three copies

The chronological term on which the itinerary presented in Dante’s exhibition at the Bargello stands the fifties of the fourteenth century is not by chance, as it is the period when we have the definitive consecration of Dante due to Giovanni Boccaccio.

The poet from Certaldo’s contribution was of dramatic importance; he copied in his own hand the Comedy three times. The visitors of the exhibition will certainly be surprised to be able to appreciate the return of one of these three autographed specimens, dating back to around 1350-1355, exceptionally granted by the Archivo y Biblioteca Capitular of Toledo to Florence, a city where it has been missing for centuries.

Furthermore, it is important to remember the particular symbolic value of the exhibition on Dante at the Bargello as it is precisely in this building – the one that Alghieri had continuously frequented when he was in charge of Prior – that the Podestà Cante de’ Gabrielli of Gubbio condemned him in contumacy on January 27, 1302, on charges of bartering, corruption and fraud. A few months later, on 10 March 1302, the sentence was issued in the then ‘Sala dell’Udienza’ (today the Donatello Hall) condemning the poet to perpetual exile and to be burned at the stake if he returned to Florence.

Dante’s further bond with the Bargello is finally the alleged ancient ‘portrait’ of the poet which is preserved, dated by 1337, when Giotto and his workshop made it.

“These celebrations will be an occasion to bring especially the layman to the beauty of literature and poetry and therefore to the appreciation of the Dante Alighieri’s work”. These are the words of Luigi Dei, Rector of the University of Florence.

The Chapel of the Magdalene and Dante’s first “Inferno”

Thanks to this serious and authoritative approach, but at the same time open to disclosure to the general public, the 700th anniversary of the Supreme Poet’s death is worthily celebrated and the opportunity is created to take a guided tour of the Bargello in order to admire both the wonderful works now on display – where in addition to manuscripts there are also paintings made by Florentine fourteenth-century artists called in some cases to illuminate Dante’s copies, such as the case of Pacino di Bonaguida – and the masterpieces of the museum’s permanent collection, as well as to visit a great treasure such as the Magdalene Chapel, where in the significant execution of Giotto and Bottega, a cycle completed by 1337, we have the first important evidence of the early influence of Dante’s work on painting.


L.Azzetta, S.Chiodo, T.De Robertis (by), Onorevole e antico cittadino di Firenze. Il Bargello per Dante, show catalogue, Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, April 21 – July 31 2021, Mandragora, Florence 2021. (Italian edition)