Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Divine Comedy, Redux

No, I'm not going to wax on about my current journey through Hell, Purgatory & Paradise (if Oklahoma is as good as they say...hey, we're almost home anyway!). I just want to comment on a recent...um...I don't know what you call this:

During our short stay in San Francisco, we strolled into a few art galleries along the Wharf (near Ghiradelli Square). One was exhibiting the prints of Salvador Dali that illustrate the "greatest Italian work of poetry," Dante's Divine Comedy. I don't fashion myself a guru of poetry by any stretch of the imagination (or art for that matter...just ask Sisiggy ;-), but I do have a college education and would think that I should at least be familiar with the title, if not the concept of Divine Comedy. Alas, I was clueless. If I were playing a game of Trivia, I would have said it was a Woody Allen movie. I mean, I've heard of Dante's Inferno, but I thought that was the poem. I didn't realize that was just a part of the bigger whole. As you can tell, I've read none of it.

Anyway.

In addition to being ignorant about Dante, I've really only ever known one of Salvador Dali's paintings, The Persistence of Memory (though I could not have told you what this painting was called). What I discovered in the gallery was that I really like some of Dali's work. Specifically, I really liked his depictions of the Divine Comedy. They were ethereal and beautiful. In fact, I came dangerously close to buying one when I learned that the prices were not prohibitive. But alas, I do not need such a thing, especially given that I do not even know the history of either artist, but it did give me pause and cause to do a bit of googling.

Fast forward to today (traversing OK on I-40, the very image of Paradise) and I'm reading a book given to me by a friend that "I must read" (I'm sure this had to be on Oprah's Book Club list), entitled Eat, Pray, Love which is both a travelogue (I love travelogues) and a story of one woman's journey to Italy (to eat...she's "double majoring in speaking (Italian), and eating - with a concentration in gelato"...heh :-), to India (to pray), and to Indonesia (to find the balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence). I'm still in Italy, and reading about why it is that she and so many others travel to Italy simply to learn the language which she describes as "perfectly ordained to express human emotions." By her description and research, the Italian language as spoken today was chosen by a group of intellectuals in the 16th century who decided that there needed to be one dialect chosen to be the national language, and they chose the most beautiful dialect they could find which was in 14th century Florence and which derived from the (you guessed it) "great" Florentine poet, Dante. Specifically, it was the language he used in Divine Comedy, the language of the people on the streets shaped in what he called "il dolce stil nuovo" ("sweet new style").

And therein, ensued another lesson (however brief) about Dante's Divine Comedy about which I previously knew nothing.

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3 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, January 08, 2009, Blogger Bob-kat said...

Wow, I learned something new myself :)

Thanks for popping by and leaving well wishes!

 
At 9:17 PM, January 08, 2009, Blogger Foo said...

If you want to see some disturbing images that recall Dante's vision of hell, check out Hieronymous Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights".

I have to admit that I've never read "The Divine Comedy". Heck, I couldn't even make it all the way through "The Dante Club", Matthew Pearl's novel in which a handful of famous Boston authors in the midst of translating Dante have to track down a serial murderer who's visiting the inferno's punishments on his victims.

But I like Dali.

 
At 7:38 AM, January 09, 2009, Blogger Sisiggy said...

Having grown up listening to an Italian dialect (Sicilian), rather than "high Italian" (which is what my aunts called it), thank goodness the Italian intellectuals picked the right one.

Some of Dali's stuff is beautiful (his Last Supper, for instance), but some was rather disturbing (The Great Masturbator -- try Googling that one...). I do remember seeing an interview of Dali where he kept referring to himself in the third person, which was creepy -- as was he.

And that is my entire performance in modern art. Thank you.

 

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