Art Across at The Portico Library - in collaboration with Dante Alighieri Society

'Divine Monsters: from past to present'

20th June 2018

A one-off lecture, linking together contemporary artists and ancient illuminated manuscripts of the 'Divine Comedy'.

The lecture happened in connection with two exhibits co-inhabiting the Library: the curated exhibition 'Beautiful Monsters' and the exceptional three-days-only presence of six different facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts of the 'Divine Comedy', all dating by the end of the 13 hundreds, presented by the Dante Alighieri Society and produced by Italian publisher Imago.

When asked to give a lecture to mark the event of the display of the facsimiles while at the same time presenting the common thread of fantastic creatures, found both in the 'Divine Comedy' and in the theme of the 'Beautiful Monsters' exhibition, Sara embraced the challenge and conceived a journey from the contemporary artworks on show to the monstrous creatures met by Dante in his journey in the afterworld, moving from one to the other through the presentation of the 'Historiae Animalium', a compendium of animals written by Conrad Gessner in the 16th century, which had been the main source of inspiration for the artists grouped in the 'Beautiful Monsters' exhibition.

From a witty commentary on the contemporary criteria of definition of female beauty, and then through unicorns, six-footed serpents and mythological centaurs, the imagery produced by different cultures and times has animated the evening, for a fascinating reflection on the concepts of beauty and monstrosity, and ultimately on human imagination and creativity. The celebration of one of the main geniuses of Italian literature and culture, Dante Alighieri, and of his legacy, has also been central to the event, which culminated in the careful handling of those incredible objects, the facsimiles, reproducing in all their details and flaws some among the very first manuscripts of Dante's masterpiece.