On this day in 1302, the poet Dante Alighieri—Italy's greatest and one of the World's most important writers ever—was condemned to banishment from his beloved Florence. Dante found himself on the losing side of a fierce Florentine political battle. When his side, "The White Guelphs," lost the struggle, Dante was banished from his home city on pain of death. He moved to Ravenna, about 75 miles away, where he lived-out the rest of his days. And, by the way, it was in Ravenna that he wrote his most important works—works that changed the face of Western literature and influenced our perception of Heaven and Hell. Dante was buried in the the cemetery of the Church of San Pier Maggiore.
It was only after Dante died, and the World came to appreciate his incomparable literary contributions, that Florence demanded that the body of Il Sommo Poeta—and The Father of the Italian Language—be returned to his home city. Ravenna refused. Popes, artists (Michelangelo) and military troops pressed Ravenna, to no avail. Ravenna went so far as to hide Dante's remains in the church's walls (where, some stories relate, he was forgotten for several centuries). In 1829, Florence built an impressive tomb in The Basilica of Santa Croce for Dante's bones—a landmark crypt which remains empty to this day. Dante still lies in a handsome Ravenna tomb, built in 17981. Visiting Dante's tomb was one of the highlights of my visit to Ravenna. The other was witnessing the incredible Early-Christian mosaics which decorate the churches and tombs of Ravenna (works of art which were already 800 years old when Dante looked-up at them).
The bookends, shown above, show a pensive Dante, leaning forward from "his throne." They are bronze clad, patinated and hand-polychromed in the 1920's or 1930's. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248