THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

13 November 2015

Visions of Paradise

It is our great pleasure to announce that the British Library’s exquisite copy of Dante’s Divina Commedia is on display at the National Gallery in London.

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Miniature of Beatrice explaining to Dante that the universe is a hierarchy of being, with creatures devoid of reason in the early 'sea of being', and heaven as nine spheres ruled by the figure of love, from Divina Commedia, Italy (Tuscany, Siena?), 1444-c. 1450, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 130r

This wondrous manuscript (discussed in more detail here) is being exhibited as part of the free exhibition Visions of Paradise, which centres on Francesco Botticini’s resplendent Assumption of the Virgin (1475-76). Botticini’s altarpiece was commissioned by Matteo Palmieri (b. 1406, d. 1475) for his funerary chapel in the church of San Pier Maggiore, Florence. Palmieri was an influential Florentine humanist and a big Dante fan. He even composed a poem based on the Divina Commedia, entitled La Città di vita (1465), which describes a journey through Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.

To celebrate the exhibition of Yates Thompson MS 36 we have compiled some of the most spectacular visions of Paradiso in this manuscript. Let us know your favourites by tweeting us @BLMedieval

Images from this manuscript are also available in our online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

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Detail of a miniature of five Just Princes, atop the eagle of Justice, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 164r

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Detail of a miniature of Dante and Beatrice witnessing the Triumph of Christ, with Christ looking down on a group of kneeling souls, enclosed in a circle of stars, in illustration of Paradiso XXIII, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 170r

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Detail of a miniature of Beatrice watching as Dante kneels before the orders of angels, who are kneeling before the Trinity; on the right, Dionysius sits, with an open book on his knee, in illustration of Paradiso XXVIII, Yates Thompson MS 36,  f. 180r

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Detail of a miniature of Dante and Beatrice before the Empyrean, the Heavenly City, with the congregation of the blessed seated on benches surrounding an empty imperial throne, in illustration of Paradiso XXX, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 184r

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Detail of a miniature of Dante and Beatrice before the Virgin and Child, seated in a garden and surrounded by angels and a kneeling Bernard, in illustration of Paradiso XXXIII, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 186r

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Detail of a miniature of Dante and Beatrice before Dante's vision of the Virgin, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 190r

You now have until 28 March 2016 to enjoy this manuscript, the Botticini altarpiece, and many other works of art on display in the National Gallery's Visions of Paradise exhibition.

- Hannah Morcos

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