DANTE: THE INVENTION OF CELEBRITY

FREE EXHIBITION

Open until 9 Jan 2022

Gallery 8

Admission is FREE, but a free Museum ticket is required


On the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante (1265–1321), this free exhibition explores the great poet and philosopher's influence on art and culture over the centuries.

Personality cults; style icons; reality TV: these staples of our modern world have an origin. They can all be traced to the Divine Comedy, an epic poem completed around 1320 by Dante Alighieri. In it, Dante exposed the hollowness and hypocrisy of worldly reputation and power, and for the first time the lives of ordinary people were dramatised on a world stage, with full exposure of their characters. And by writing a bestseller, Dante in turn became a celebrity. Dante himself acquired the status of an icon.

On display in the exhibition are more than 60 artworks, by iconic artists of the past, including William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Salvador Dalí, and present-day responses to Dante and the Divine Comedy by contemporary artists such as Tom Phillips RA, Geoff MacEwan, Barrie Tullett and Rachel Owen.

The artist-robot Ai-Da has also produced works in response to Dante exclusively for this exhibition, engaging with themes of the Comedy that invite further reflection on what it means to witness the world; the nature of creativity; and the value of human relationships.

Curated by Prof Gervase Rosser, the exhibition coincides with a free display at the Bodleian Library, The Divine Comedy from Manuscript to Manga, which is until 14 November 2021.

 

Banner Image: Detail from Dante and Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise, Monika Beisner, 2002 © the artist

A man wearing a black gown and head covering infront of a window looking to the left

Detail of the face of the poet Dante in an 1853 painting by Rossetti

 

 

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EXHIBITION CATALOGUE

DANTE: THE INVENTION OF CELEBRITY

By Professor Gervase Rosser

Dante may be considered the inventor of our modern ideas of fame and celebrity. He was the first person who, though of no particular distinction in the world – a mere poet – became a celebrity in his own lifetime. Discover more about the themes explored in our exhibition in this brand new book by the exhibition's curator Gervase Rosser, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.

 

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Dante Exhibition Supporters

The Patrons of the Ashmolean Museum

Ben Brown

Rosamond Brown

And those who prefer to remain anonymous