Cantieri d'idee. Riflessi di immagini dantesche in alcune miniature dell'Eneide

Author: Chiara Ponchia

Workshops of Ideas.Reflections of dantesque images in some miniatures of the Aeneid

In the 14th century the many attempts to visualize the Divine Comedy originated a great number of illuminated manuscripts extremely various in their codicological features, mise en page and miniatures. Illustrating the Divine Comedy was a difficult task because the poem was newly written and thus lacking a stable iconographic tradition: illuminators took on the challenge using a wide range of illustrative typologies and elaborating new iconographies. Therefore the illustration of the Divine Comedy became an incubator of new images, which eventually would have been used not only for the poem itself, but also for other texts. One of these was one of the main Dante’s sources: the Aeneid. In the Middle Ages the masterwork by Virgil didn’t receive a proper illustration cycle: after the late Antiquity, when the renowned Vatican Virgil and Roman Virgil were realized, illuminated manuscripts of the Aeneid weren’t made until the 10th-13th century. Those exemplars, though, were scarcely illuminated, with images which were not able to set an iconographic tradition. As a consequence, illuminators in the Late Middle Ages and in the Early Renaissance trying to illustrate the Aeneid were forced to turn to other iconographic traditions. One of them was the illustrative tradition of the Romans, but it wasn’t the only one: as I propose in my article, in their quest for figurative models to visualize the adventures of Aeneas, illuminators took inspiration also from the illuminated manuscripts of the Divine Comedy.