March 25 marks the first annual celebration of Dantedì, when Italy will celebrate Dante Alighieri in an outpouring of cultural appreciation. Although the event was organized prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 13th-century Florentine poet is being embraced as a symbol of Italian culture and language to unite the country during this difficult time.
Italians have sung, played music, and applauded the dedicated medical staff during lockdown. Now, the 18h00 balcony ritual will be reading a Dante verse from the window. The invitation to the flash mob is to “declare our love for Italy with Dante,” as the Dante Alighieri Society states on its website. I translate in English: “We will celebrate Dantedì for the first time while Coronavirus keeps us separate from the places and people we love, while love and Dante unite us,” underlining that “as the whole world is showing the love for Italy will not abandon us.”
Dante, arguably best known for La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), was born in Florence in 1265 and grew up among Florentine aristocracy. March 25, 1300 (according to scholars), is when Dante is said to have begun the journey into the afterlife with his masterpiece. Now, March 25 is officially recognized as the day that pays homage to the great poet with “Dantedì,” coined by linguist Francesco Sabatini. Next year will mark 700 years since Dante’s death, and a major exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome has been scheduled. There are plenty of other celebrations planned for 2021, in Italy and abroad.
Leonardo Frigo, long inspired by historical literature, has for the past five years been working on a Dante project of epic proportions using violins as a canvas: 33 violins, each instrument displaying a canto (chapter) of the Inferno. With ink from his fountain pen, Frigo, originally from Asiago, Italy, is transforming each violin into pictorial form in a studio in London, where he now lives. “I started this project when I left my country, as Dante started The Divine Comedy once he left Florence in exile,” says the 26-year-old artist and musician.
Frigo is formally trained in art restoration, having graduated from Venice’s Università Internazionale dell’Arte, and has completed 20 violins, with the remainder in progress, some nearly finished and others sketched. Propped on a shelf above his work space is a pint-sized copy of Dante’s iconic work that Frigo continues to draw relevance from. “What has inspired me most is the idea of the journey, the journey of life, the feeling of loss that every single person at least once in a lifetime feels. And the teaching of continuing to walk through all the difficulties,” he says.
Frigo pays homage to the supreme poet with a travelling exhibition of his Dante violins to be on display at institutions in Cremona and Vicenza next year.
While many of the world’s cultural events have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19, why not pull down your dusty copy of The Divine Comedy and take part in your own #Dantedì moment and join the conversation on social media.
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