Dante’s Divine Comedy illustrated by Botticelli

The mystery of Dante’s poem in the drawing of the Renaissance Master

The 100 parchments with Dantesque drawings by Botticelli in late 1400 were commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, called the Man of the People (second cousin to Lorenzo the Great), friend and patron to Sandro Botticelli. The Maestro painted his most famous works for Pierfrancesco: “The birth of Venus” and “Spring” (Florence, Uffizi Gallery).

Botticelli’s Dantesque work which went from 1480 to 1495 was divided into two groups for centuries. The first with the greatest number of parchments (85) is kept in the new Kupferstichkabinett in the Kulturforum, after the Berlin State Museums were united; the second has seven parchments and is kept in the Vatican Apostolic Libraries, and comes from the collection of Queen Christine of Sweden.

To complete the corpus of the 100 canticles in the comedy, eight tables from the inferno are missing which are considered to have been lost (II-VII, XI, XIV) while those for the two canto of Paradise (XXXI and XXXIII) are thought not to have been painted. The corpus of 92 plates includes the “The Infernal Gulf” and “Inferno” which were drawn on the front and back of the same sheet, and “The Great Satan” which is drawn on a double sheet. To this we must add the parchment of Canto XXXI of Paradise, without illustrations.

The sheets are fine sheep parchment and measure 325mm high by 475 mm wide, and only the “Great Satan” is 468 x 635mm. Except for the “Great Gulf”, the illustrations are on the smooth inner side (the meat side) with the text on the outer porous side, called the skin.

For this enormous work Botticelli used various different tools: for the foundation lines for the composition he used “metal nibs”, including silver ones, and to make the outlines more marked he used a “pen” and ink, which give the plate its light yellow or black and gold colours. In all events, the work shows various levels of finish. Only some of the drawings reached us complete and completely or partly coloured.

The only complete one is “The Infernal Gulf”, which opens the series designed by Sandro di Mariano di Filipepi. Here the artist drew a fascinating global portrayal of the Dantesque inferno: a large funnel full of illuminated building details and figures, which forms a summa, synthetic but complete, of the scenes he painted in later drawings. The entire work is now mounted on separate sheets, and represents a narrative continuation, a sort of modern film sequence that tells the story of Dante’s literary and philosophic journey.


Numbered items, certified by the Vatican Apostolic Library
Availability: item available | Quotation: confidential negotiation


For the first time after 500 years, the wonderful drawings of the great tuscan artist, scattered in three European libraries, were collected and reunited in a rare and precious facsimile edition of Botticelli’s original codex.


An unprecedented initiative promoted by the Vatican Library allowed, for the first time, to gather the drawings of the original XV century manuscript of the Divine Comedy, survived and today conserved partly in the Vatican Library and partly in the Kupferstichkabinett of the Kulturforum in Berlin.



Sandro Botticelli conceived this extraordinary series of drawings for a codex which would be dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici.

The original codex hasn’t survived. The facsimile edition contains the reproductions of the surviving 184 loose tables in their original size.

It is an exclusive opportunity to enjoy the whole series of drawings in a single volume.


Technical Features

Reg Lat. 1896 Ham 201 (Cim. 33) Unabridged reproduction of the codex conserved partly at the Vatican Library, partly in Berlin, in the original cm 32,5 x 47 format.

  • 88 drawings + 7 obtained in silverpoint and pen
  • Pages cutting as in the original
  • Half bound in leather with corners in precious goat leather and gold impressions on the front and spine.

World limited edition: 500 items, numbered and certified by the Vatican Apostolic Library. Archival record: Reg. Lat. 1896 Ham. 201

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