Botticelli’s Painting of Dante’s Paradise
Dante Alighieri’s trilogy, known to us as The Divine Comedy, is comprised of his visitations, firstly to Hell, then to Purgatory and finally to Paradise (Heaven), recorded successively as the eternally horrific punishments in Hell for those who willfully do wrong, the appeasement of those who repent before death but who must be cleansed in Purgatory, before entering the presence of God in Paradise.
Dante is believed to have been much influenced by a poem called The Vision of Tundale, the trials of a wealthy Irishman of bad repute who one day was struck by an affliction, such that one side of his body went stone cold, the other side luke-warm, so that his burial became a matter of dispute between his friends and enemies. On the third day, to the consternation of both parties, he became alive again, revealing his vision of the aforementioned afterlife in the company of an Angel, telling of the horrors of Hell, of the tribulations in Purgatory, and of the eventual joy of Paradise. That ‘vision’ was later written and translated into Latin by the Irish Benedictine monk Marcus, from Cashel, newly resident at the Cistercian Abbey of St. James, Regensberg, in Germany, and dated 1149. Its seeming exactness of detail compared to other ‘visions’, gained it a great popularity as a comfort towards the ‘after-life’ of death, acting as a tether or anchor to a greater or lesser degree for all societies, pagan and otherwise, and a consolation against the darkness of an unknown future existence in that place ‘from whence no man has yet returned.’ But Purgatory itself created a distinct dilemma. Was it a place, and if so, what was its geography? If it was a ‘state’, what was its structure? These questions were clarified, but not until the Council of Trent in 1545. Dante’s poem was written between 1307 and 1321.
The translation of Tundale’s ‘Vision’ into Middle English is quite difficult to read, just like Chaucer’s translation of de Lorris’ (a troubadour) Romance of the Rose, yet raw as the syntax in both may be (against today’s), both Tundale and Dante draw a very beautiful picture of the ‘state’ of Purgatory itself, but only when souls eventually reach the seventh terrace, the area defined as Paradise on Earth, closest to Heaven. On his journey, Dante was accompanied by Virgil, another poet, author of the Aeneid, whose experiences of the underworld when Aeneas went to visit his father, proved beneficial.
If, as is claimed, Dante relied on Tundale for the general structure of the composition and the visions, Dante’s refining qualities transformed the scene of the Earthly Paradise in Purgatory to a gentle, delicate, even sensual picture in words, yet having been cleansed of all human desire, carnal sensuality was impossible, and the sublime could not exist. The picture is one of innocence, and Dante was also aware of the theological rules and doctrines concerning Purgatory. But still, Dante’s lady friend, Beatrice, who is ever present in his mind weights heavily on his consciousness, and as he first entered the garden of Earthly Paradise (Eden), he described the ecstatically beautiful Matilde (Beatrice), sweet and mellifluous, una donna soletta che si gia (‘a donna all alone who walked along’), and who (‘made a gift to me, she raised her eyes’) is to lead him to a procession where qui primavera sempre (where spring is eternal), and which imagery is later transposed to picture form for all the world to admire, by Sandro Botticelli, when at the behest of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, he drew images for each of the one hundred cantos of the Divine Comedy.
Among them, is what is arguably the most beautiful painting the world has seen or ever will see, La Primavera (The Springtime), a celebration of the expectation of joy – and in that celebration at the crossroads of life and death, where sensual love in life becomes at once a heavenly love, devoid of human intimacy, and was of its time, Platonic Love, presented and drawn with much ambiguity by Botticelli from Dante’s perspective of his own crossroads, confused, for Dante had to return to his earthly abode.
For Botticelli however, his own needs and the desires of his patron too, had to be gratified, and when the veil of ambiguity is raised from the very same painting, exposing the erotic world of the younger Medici Princes in vita activa, as classical mythology merged with the new world, and so the scene is imaginatively re-drawn. Beatrice becomes Venus, Goddess of Love, as the centerpiece, and the appearance of The Three Graces, scented, dancing in romantic whirlwind, dressed sensuously in diaphanous gowns, add lyricism and movement, while on the right, Flora, in splendid sophistication, who was the beautiful Matilde when Dante first entered the garden, is now the Goddess of Spring, resplendent, gathering flowers – in vita voluptuosa.
(Picture of Primavera)
To her left, Adam seizes Eve, who, regretful of what once had been, seeks redemption and still wants to play around, but it is too late, the scene had changed. On the far left, Mercury casts away a threatening cloud. The background scene reveals a garden of wonder, vita contemplativa, endless in its bounty.
The painting is so rarified and detailed that each leaf of each tree has received the personal attention of the artist, and are meticulously drawn so that from the stalk, the spine proceeds, as left and right the veins spread out on either side, providing sustenance, ‘till at the very edge, tiny spikes protrude in protection. A botanist has estimated that such was the attention to detail in this composition, and to the satisfaction to his patron, Botticelli has included no less than forty different species of flower.
For close on five hundred years, the drawings commissioned by de Medici from Botticelli have been closeted in the Vatican or in private collections around Europe. During the 1800’s, a collection of eighty four of these was assembled by two German museums, the other eight remaining with the Vatican; and when in 1997 it was decided to put the full collection together for an international display, it was realised only then that the original drawing for La Primavera on sheepskin, had been in the German collection, hidden from the public for five centuries.
In essence, there is great beauty in both The Vision of Tundale and Dante’s Divine Comedy, for in the fullness of reality, they both teach temperance of people towards one another and which of course is, the gift of peace.
To have seen all of this in Botticelli’s painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, is to have lived happily in the presence of the painter and the two poets, Dante and Virgil, as much as it was to have had the pleasure of meeting their truly beautiful lady-friends. Michael Ward.
And then appeared to me - as things appear
that suddenly in wonder will deflect
the claims of every other thought we have –
a donna all alone who walked along,
singing and choosing flowers to pluck from flowers
that painted all the way she went upon.
e la m’aparve – si com’elli appare
subitamente cosa che disvia
per maraviglia tutto altro pensare –
una donna soletta che si gia
e cantando e scegliendo fior da fiore
ond’ era pinta tutta la sua via.
Ballymore Eustace GAA Club
Juvenile Football & Hurling
The News: It’s all quiet on the playing front for the
Juveniles at the moment but that gives us time to
plan for the new playing year.
The U-14, U-15 and U-16 teams will amalgamate
with Two-Mile-House and Eadestown and play as St
Oliver Plunketts again this year. It is also planned to
play a separate U-14 tournament as Ballymore
Eustace against both Two-Mile-House and
Eadestown. The U-14 team will commence training
in the first week of February, all players will be
contacted in advance. The AGM for St Oliver
Plunketts will be held in Eadestown on Tuesday 22-
Jan at 8:00, please support.
All other teams from U-13 down will continue to
play as Ballymore Eustace in the South Board
Leagues, Go-Games and blitz's. The Ballymore
Juvenile AGM will be held in the last week of
February, date will be advised later.
It is also hoped to enter a girls team into the county
league this year. This will also be discussed at the
Hurling Tale: Wexford is one of the most famous
hurling counties in Ireland, the Wexford Co. Jersey
in terms of colour is one of the most striking. The
yellow band that is part of this (although not so
prominent in today's) jersey is linked back in history
to the early 1800's.
During the summer three BME Juvenile hurlers
while on a trip to Tintern Abbey were given a task
by the tour guide to answer the following question,
'How did Wexford people come to be known as 'The
In the tower there is a display room with various
items relating to the Abbeys history. There is a
number of filing cabinets with old documents, also
as each cabinet drawer is opened an audio is played
detailing the information contained in it. The young
hurlers got busy trying to find the answer to the
It was after the dissolution of the monasteries in
1536 by King Henry VIII Tintern Abbey and its
lands was granted to Anthony Colclough, an officer
in his army in 1541.
The Abbey remained in the Colclough family down
through the generations and in 1814 was inherited by
Ceaser Colclough was friendly with King William
III and when they meet Ceaser talked a lot about
how good the Wexford hurlers were. King William
challenged Ceaser Colclough to bring a Wexford
team over to England to play a match against a
Cornish team. The Wexford men were given a
royal reception and prior to the game Sir Ceaser
gave his team a glass of whiskey and told them to
tie a yellow kerchief around their middles so that
they would be easily recognised on the field. The
Wexford men hurled their opponents off the field
that day (they had trained very hard). After the
game King William and his Queen were heard to
shout ''well done you Yellow Bellies''. This name
stuck and is a proud part of Wexford's history.
Also the name Bolger (a well known Wexford
surname) when translated back to Irish is !!!!!,
BME Juvenile Supporters ( the weather was a bit
Coaching motto: Children first, winning second
Ballymore Eustace GAA Club
Juvenile Football & Hurling
Its all about having a bit of fun
Coaching motto: Children first, winning second