Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors


Art History

First Advisor

Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio


Botticelli, Dante, Florence, Divina, Commedia, Illustrations


During fifteenth century Florence, the liberal arts flourished due to the developments of humanism. Aided by the intellectual circles of the Medici, the relationship between art and literature became focal points in these discussions. Through the study of ancient and Italian texts, a symbol of Florentine pride and superiority emerged through Dante’s masterpiece, La Divina Commedia.

Botticelli created ninety-two illustrations to accompany the first Florentine edition of the Commedia, published in 1481 with commentary by leading humanist Cristoforo Landino. Botticelli’s illustrations of the Commedia should be raised to a higher status than just unfinished illustrations. This thesis discusses the importance of the illustrations in relationship to the Renaissance commentary of the Commedia, the rising status of the artist due to the developments of humanism, and the elevation of painting as a liberal art. The illustrations were completed over a long period of time, therefore it can be assumed that Botticelli illustrated the Commedia for his own pleasure. Thus, the illustrations represent the artist as an intellectual. The accurate symbolic interpretation of the text demonstrates that Botticelli had studied the text extensively. Botticelli perfectly grasps the way in which Dante conveys the changing tones of the canticles, and in the illustrations, Botticelli is able to convey these tones through different artistic methods that were developing during the Renaissance. The illustrations should not be considered just an artistic depiction of the text, but an educated commentary and visual translation by Botticelli.