Dante’s World

A new exhibition opens in Durham this week, at the Palace Green Library Galleries. Curated by Annalisa Cipollone Dante: Hell, Heaven and Hope – A Journey through Life and the After-Life with Dante opens on Saturday 2nd December 2017, and runs until early March 2018. Following Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy with its tour through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, the exhibition features rare manuscripts of Dante’s work, printed copies and artistic responses to one of the greatest imaginative achievements of the Middle Ages. 

The Ordered Universe and Multi-media Sculptor Alexandra Carr have been privileged to contribute to the section of the exhibition on Paradise. As part of her Leverhulme Artist in Residence Fellowship Alexandra produced a sculpture of the medieval universe, Empyrean, with its nested spheres, following the astral journey that Dante takes, through the eyes of Beatrice. Dante’s conception of the universe is close to that of Robert Grossteste, but adds the Empyrean, the spheres of the Godhead, with the divine at the centre. Alexandra’s sculpture allows the viewer to see individual spheres, and to see the whole of the medieval cosmos, represented in a shifting, glowing pattern of glass beads, wiring and focal points in gold. A wonderful serendipity brought the Sculpting with Light project, the Dante exhibition and the Ordered Universe project into conjunction. The result is a powerful meditation on the vastnesses of space, how humans have imagined its contours and rhythms, and our place within it, on what is generally agreed by classical and medieval scholars to be the heaviest part of the universe, and tiny in comparison to that which surrounds it. Yet it is our viewpoint for the majesty, awe and wonder that the universe commands.

The exhibition will also feature talks and other events. Tom McLeish and Giles Gasper will be delivering one of the public talks on February 7th: Tours of the Cosmos from Dante to Dark Matter. 

ABSTRACT: Dantes’ gaze into Beatrice’s eye initiates grand tour of the medieval cosmos, a structure of overwhelming grandure and consequence.  A similar gaze into the new eyes we have constructed for ourselves over the last generation take us today on a similar tour of the vaster-still modern cosmological model.  Are there any moral lessons for humanity, other than our insignificance to be learned from this, contemporary, grand tour?

Do come an experience the exhibition, and the amazing combination of scholarship, art and poetry. Dante’s World awaits.


All photos courtesy of Alexandra Carr

One thought on “Dante’s World

  1. Reblogged this on David J A Bowe and commented:
    This looks likes a wondrous exhibition. It’s exciting to see the level of engagement and re-elaboration of Dante’s work across media at the moment. The recent exhibition of Rachel Owen’s new illustrations of the Inferno at Pembroke College, Oxford, are another rich addition to this tradition. Part of this must certainly be to do with this particular temporal sweet spot, between the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth (which we celebrated in 2015) and the 700th anniversary of his death (to come in 2021), but this isn’t the only explanation. Dante’s have been a source texts for visual, musical and new literary art for centuries, something I’ve written about elsewhere, and it’s rewarding, as a researcher, to see the everliving and developing nature of his artistic legacy.

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