Leon Jacobowitz-Efron

Dante in Pistoia: the frescoes of the Cappella del Giudizio

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This article examines the fifteenth century fresco fragments of the Cappella del Giudizio in Pistoia's San Zeno cathedral. It recognizes the hitherto unidentified subject matter of the heavily damaged fresco on the west wall to be part of a depiction of Dante's Inferno, showing it was a rendering of Nardo di Cione's cycle from the Cappella Strozzi di Mantova of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. This identification validates that Dante's imaginative portrayal of the afterlife was reproduced visually outside of Florence, and that the Comedy was used as a graphic vocabulary for religious artwork outside of Dante's native city. The article further shows the political context that may have affected the choice to render the Strozzi version in Pistoia, and places the Cappella del Giudizio within the context of Dante's religious reception, showing that by the time it was painted Dante was already considered a paragon of vernacular-secular piety, worthy of being cited by preachers, as well as «cited» on church walls in the form of frescoes.

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