Detail of Allegorical Portrait of Dante by an anonymous 16th-century artist from Florence (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
With all the world focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, it's very easy to overlook this interesting piece of news: today is National Dante Alighieri Day in Italy.
Believe it or not, despite the crisis that's decimating the country, Italians are celebrating the national holiday by sharing reading and performances of Dante's Divine Comedy on social media by using hashtags like #Dantedì and #IoleggoDante on Twitter and Instagram.
So why Dante and why March 25th? Next year Italy will celebrate the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian writer, and today they are marking their first official celebration (albeit online due to the current lock-down in the country). Additional details on the upcoming events are listed here.
More on the significance of Dante and his works in Catholic literature can also be found here.
Here in Canada, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz came up with an idea to commemorate Dante and help raise some money for those suffering from COVID-19 in Italy and help the medical community on the front-lines of the battle in that country.
Timothy explained to me, in a recent email, the idea he had of creating a sculpture series based on Dante's Divine Comedy, which will be used to illustrate a new translation of the story by author Daniel Fitzpatrick. A percentage of the sales of this book will be donated towards relief efforts in Italy.
"I had the idea when I was driving to my studio to sculpt Dante and then realized the irony of the timing when Italy is in a state of horror. I thought maybe this sculpture series can help."
In a YouTube video Timothy shared with me (and gave me permission to share with you on this blog), Timothy gives us a preview of the artwork that will be featured in the book.
Timothy also explained to me that, "People need something to do here in North America other than watch Netflix. This is the perfect time to pick up Dante and read it. It is also a comedy. Dante gets out of Hell to Purgatory then Heaven. Imagine reading Dante and helping Italy at the same time."