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Dante's poetry, therefore, may be seen as analogous to manuscript illumination. Not, however, simply insofar as it may be a vehicle for images that may recall or even suggest a particular illustration, but insofar as it may be seen as a particular kind of artistic, and theological, procedure.

Seen in this perspective, the art of the poet or of the illuminator is not an end in itself but a tool for the enhancement of the text that it is called to illuminate. If, moreover, this text is the word of God, then the artist's work may be seen as prayer, as a dialogue between the artist and the mystery of the logos.

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As such, then, it may be seen as an exercise in humility. In the first instance, as an exercise in humility on the part of the artist, insofar as he allows his art to be defined by, and receive its identity from, the divine logos. Secondly, however, as an act of humility on the part of the logos , insofar as it allows itself to be interpreted, incarnated, in a particular illustration or terzina. With the intertwinement of artistic and theological procedure in mind, let us now turn to consider Oderisi's words concerning the vanity of artistic pride to see to what extent our appreciation of their significance may be enhanced by our considerations so far.

It has often been noted that Oderisi's words, ll. In the light of what has been said above, this may be seen as a new example of the way Dante interweaves his own word with that of God, as if in a game of reciprocal interpretation. We note, however, that in the above lines the words of the Bible are not recalled explicitly but are subtly inscribed in the terms of Oderisi's speech. We therefore begin to see how a game of reciprocal interpretation may not be limited to those moments in which Dante's poetry explicitly recalls the biblical text, but may in fact deeply permeate Dante's narrative procedure as a whole.

Rimaniamo per ora sul discorso riguardo la gloria artistica. Let us stay a while longer on the speech regarding artistic pride. Artistic pride, Oderisi says, is vain because the fame of a particular artist will always be surpassed by that of another and, in any case, from the perspective of eternity, the fame of any one particular artist is a phenomenon of insignificant duration.

We are thus told that Oderisi's fame has been obscured by that of Franco Bolognese, that of Cimabue by that of Giotto, that of Guido Guinizelli by that of Guido Cavalcanti, and that that of Dante will probably end up obscuring that of the latter two. Oderisi therefore offers us a picture which, by emphasizing the only relative importance of each artist, seems to want to undermine the value of all artistic endeavours and, implicitly with them, of all the works of man. In denying that any artistic product may be the definitive expression of the canons of a particular art, Oderisi's words seem, at first, to be denying that any human work may, in its particularity, touch the essence of an absolute and eternal truth.

However, in the lgiht of what has been said above about art as a tool for the glorification of the word of God, one finds the full significance of Oderisi's words precisely in the placing of human works against the backdrop of an eternal truth. According to the hypothetical Dantean perspective outlined above, artistic procedure becomes theological procedure in its becoming an instrument through which man may enter into dialogue with the logos.

Such an instrument, Oderisi's words suggest, may never presume to craft a definitive product because every artistic expression will be born from a particular individual, historical and cultural situation.

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In its particular nature, however, every work of art may find its significance through its relationship with the word of God, the value of which does not manifest itself in abstract concepts but only if incarnated in history through the works of man. Seen from the perspective of an eternal truth, therefore, human art may avoid to fall into insignificant relativity to the extent in which it is ready to recognize its only relative status and to the extent in which, on the basis of this recognition, it is ready to enter into dialogue with the logos.

It is therefore no accident that Oderisi's speech is characterized by a series of names: Oderisi, Franco, Cimbaue, Giotto, one Guido and the other. It has been said that with Oderisi's speech Dante inaugurates the modern idea of art criticism; an art criticism which, as pointed out by Assunto, is no longer based on 'objective categories of the beautiful' but rather on 'the individual characteristics of the work of a particular artist'.

In Oderisi's speech, the series of names, in highlighting the only relative importance of the work of a single artist, serves the purpose of outlining a conception of community and tradition in which the artistic identity of the individual finds its significance only in relation to the artistic identity of others. Names are not for Dante the sign of an identity definable only in terms of itself, but the sign of an identity in a process of constant redefinition in the light of its being and acting in relation to others.

The lust for artistic glory, therefore, is an example of pride insofar as it brings an individual to assert his own identity not in relation to that of others but in contrast with, and in negation of, the latter. Having said this, we begin to see how considerations prompted by the hypothesis of a theological parallel between Dante's poetry and the art of manuscript illumination may touch on some of the central questions of the ethical dimension of the Commedia.

For, as suggested by the narrative elements of Purgatorio XI themselves, the recognition of the relative importance of the work of each individual artist revealed as we have seen by the latter being put in relation to the logos and to a community is inextricable for Dante from a more general understanding of human personhood in which the latter is defined precisely by its interaction, in community, with the word of God.

We thus find in the canto of the reflection on the sin of pride a strong emphasis on the idea of community; an idea which, in ll. With their highlighting the idea of a 'common mother' for all human beings, Omberto's words allow us to return to the opening of the canto better to appreciate the significance of the 'Our Father' which opens the canto itself. We have said above that, as an illumination, this prayer could be read as an intertwinement of Dante's art with the word of God. If we now consider the significance that this prayer has in the narrative context of the canto, we realize that the same intertwinement metaphor may illuminate also our understanding of the Dantean conception of the ideas of community and personhood.

For not only does Dante rewrite the text of the prayer but, in respect to the gospels, also rewrites the narrative context in which the prayer is spoken. For the souls of the first terrace of Purgatory, the choral recitation of the 'Our Father' is an integral part of the process through which "the human soul is cleansed and becomes worthy of ascending to heaven" Purg. I, Through their recitation of the 'Our Father', the souls learn to read their experience in the light of the word of God, while at the same time being in a position to realize how in turn their experience may bring to a rewriting of the logos itself.

We therefore find, between soul and logos the same game of reciprocal interpretation we had seen between logos and poetry. Fondamentale, nel gioco di reciproca interpretazione tra persona e logos , l'articolarsi di una dinamica comunitaria. Nel loro continuo recitare il 'Padre nostro', le ombre della prima cornice del purgatorio imparano gradualmente a leggere la loro esperienza alla luce di una preghiera che, accomunando tutto il creato nella glorificazione di un unico creatore, non ammette che il valore di una singola creatura venga esaltato al di sopra delle altre.

In this game of reciprocal interpretation between person and logos , a fundamental role is played by the dynamics of community. As we have said, it is certainly not a coincidence that Dante should choose the Pater noster - with its emphasis on the dependance of all creation on one Father - for the purification of the soul from the sin of pride. In their continual reciting the 'Our Father', the souls of the first terrace of Purgatory gradually learn to read their experience in the light of a prayer which, in bringing together all creation in a community for the glorification of a single creator, does not allow the value of a single creature to be exalted above that of others.

At the same time, the prayer itself, in its being rewritten within the story of the Commedia, in its being rewritten through the experience of the various characters that Dante meets, is presented to us by Dante not so much as encapsulating absolute and objective truths as being the source of ethical possibilities to be determined by the particular interaction of individuals within a community.


Per Dante, potremmo dunque dire, l'intreccio fra anima e logos si attua attraverso l'intreccio, il gioco di reciproca interpretazione, fra anima e anima, fra persona e persona. Il dare corpo narrativo a questo tipo di attenzione verso l'altro sembra in effetti essere uno dei principali obiettivi della poetica dell'undicesimo canto del Purgatorio.

We could thus say that for Dante the intertwinement of soul and logos is actualized through the intertwinement - the game of reciprocal interpretation - of soul and soul, person and person. It is actualized, therefore, through the attention that an individual may bring towards the person and the needs of others, and to the extent in which a person may be ready to have this attention define one's own actions, one's own being.

In fact, the narrative embodiment of this kind of attention towards others seems to be one of the main objectives of the poetics of Purgatorio XI. Notiamo anche come da una parte i termini stessi della preghiera dei penitenti vengano definiti dalla situazione di peccato delle anime della terra vv. In the first instance, we find an attention towards others implicit, as many a time in the Purgatorio, in the choral performance of prayer; a performance which requires, in the very act of entering into dialogue with God, the ability to adjust one's own voice in relation to the presence and character of the voice of others.

We also note how on one hand the very terms of the prayer of the penitents are defined by the condition of sin of the souls of the world ll. Ritroviamo, inoltre, il gioco di reciproca interpretazione fra persona e persona quale caratteristica della poetica dantesca anche nei passi non esplcitamente liturgici del canto. Torniamo all'incontro fra Dante e Oderisi. Notiamo innanzi tutto i gesti che precedono lo scambio fra i due artisti. Mentre parlava con Omberto Aldobrandeschi, Dante andava camminando, contrariamente al suo interlocutore, con il busto eretto, posizione che non permette al cavaliere toscano, per quanto egli si sforzi, di riconoscere Dante vv.

Moreover, however, we also find a game of reciprocal interpretation between person and person as a characteristic of Dantean poetics in the non-explicitly liturgical passges of the canto. Let us turn back to the encounter between Dante and Oderisi. We note first of all the gestures that precede the conversation between the two artists.

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While he was speaking with Omberto Aldobrandeschi Dante at first walks, unlike his interlocutor, with a straight back; a position which does not allow the Tuscan knight to recognize Dante ll. While he is listening to Omberto's words, however, Dante bends down, and this gesture gives birth to the dialogue with Oderisi. In adjusting himself to the condition of the souls, in taking a position metaphorically identifiable with humility, Dante's gestures reveal ethical possibilities that may be actualized through the dialogue between person and person.

Notwithstanding the movements of the shadows are impeded by the weight of the rock they carry on their shoulders, Dante's bending down prompts a sudden series of actions - rendered supremely in the "he saw me, recognized me, called me" of l. Called by Oderisi, Dante turns to address the Gubbian illuminator:. Oderisi does not respond to Dante's question by affirming his own identity but by placing his identity in relation to that of Franco Bolognese; and after having praised Franco Bolognese, goes on to identify the sin of pride precisely in the lack of 'courtesy' l.

Simili considerazioni si possono fare riguardo allo scambio fra Dante e Oderisi sulla figura di Provenzan Salvani che chiudono il canto. Nonostante la storia di Provenzan Salvani occupi quasi un terzo del canto, egli stesso non partecipa alla narrazione di quest'ultima. Similar considerations may be made about the conversation between Dante and Oderisi regarding Provenzan Salvani which closes the canto. Notwithstanding Provenzano's story occupies almost a third of the canto, Provenzano himself does not participate in its narration.

He therefore receives his identity through the words of Oderisi, while the telling of his story, in offering us a new reflection on the dynamics of pride and humility, confers new dimensions to our understanding of the condition and of the words of the Umbrian illuminator. Provenzano's story reveals, firstly that a reading of Purgatorio XI cannot leave aside Christological considerations. For the dynamics of the lines quoted above seem explicitly to recall the dynamics of the atonement of sin obtained through the passion of Christ.

We note how the strength of 'he fixed himself' in l. More importantly, however, we note how the use of 'vein' in l.

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About the pain suffered on the sixth terrace of Purgatory by the souls of the greedy constantly kept in a state of thirst and hunger by mysterious odours coming from two upside down trees Forese says:. The actions of the souls of Purgatory are for Dante defined by the actions of Christ, supreme example of the word of God incarnated thorugh the works of man, supreme example of human personhood defined by divine will and by the needs of others. Forese thus rewrites through his own personhood the meaning of the actions of Christ, just as Christ's words on the cross are themselves supreme rewriting and incarnation of the words of the Psalms: Heli Heli lema sabacthani Mt.

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Alla luce delle parole di Forese, possiamo quindi leggere la storia di Provenzano anch'essa in chiave cristologica e, in questa chiave, trovare conferma che le nostre riflessioni sul dialogo fra persona e logos attraverso il dialogo fra persona e persona possono arrivare a toccare il cuore etico e teologico della Commedia. In the light of Forese's words, we can read Provenzano's story also in a Christological key, thus finding confirmation that our considerations regarding the dialogue between person and logos through the dialogue between person and person may reach out to touch the ethical and theological core of the Commedia.

For Provenzano's story, narrated by Oderisi, sets one's humble readiness to put one's identity into question in relation to the other as an essential precondition for one's being able to imitate Christ. In a Dantean understanding of human personhood, every person has in his acting and in his being the possibility of giving new life to the logos ; the possibility, we may say, of allowing the miracle of the Incarnation to be repeated. And, according to Dante, the actualization of this possibility is in fact the ultimate end of all human agency.

see url It is certainly no coincidence that in Dante's depiction of his ideal community in Paradiso XV, it is not Cacciaguida's mother but Mary, mother of Jesus, who is said to give birth to Dante's ancestor. From this perspective, then, every human personhood may be seen as a possible vehicle for the incarnation of the logos. An idea, this one, which in the union of Dante with God which ends the Commedia , is revealed to be the cornerstone of Dantean theology. In the Paradiso Dante gives poetic expression to the typically medieval conception of an ineffable God who is beyond the reach of human language and human reasoning; of a God who defies all attempts at conceptualizaion and is ultiamtely only definable as love.

In describing his union with God, however, Dante says that the divine light. The last line of the above 'terzina' is usually seen as referring to Dante's gaze fixed on the mystery of the incarnation, on the mystery of the second person of the Trinity's assumption of human lineaments.

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It could however also be seen as an indication of the fact that Dante recognizes, in the divine mystery, his own appearence, his own face. According to the latter reading, 'my face' in l. One can see God only through an understading of how one's personhood may reveal itself to be a manifestation of that love which God is; an understanding which is however only possible if each individual personhood is embraced by the idea of community encapsulated in 'our effigy' quoted above but also in the 'Our Father' prayer.

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According to this idea of community, the second person of the Trinity, in its being the infinite meeting point between man and God, is properly defined as the totality of all human manifestations of that humble divine love which, through Christ, frees man from sin. Abbiamo detto, in un primo luogo, che alla luce dell'esempio della miniatura, l'arte di Dante puo essere vista, nel suo intrecciarsi con la parola di Dio, quale procedimento non solo artistico ma anche teologico.

Abbiamo poi notato che ad un livello narrativo l'intreccio fra poesia e logos trova suoi paralleli nell'intreccio fra persona e logos e fra persona e persona. Per concludere il nostro ragionamento, riflettiamo ora sul punto di raccordo che questi paralleli trovano, come suggerito peraltro dai versi del Paradiso per ultimi citati, nella dimensione autobiografica della Commedia. Starting from an hypothesis concerning the relationship that in Purgatorio XI Dante seems to want to establish between his art and that of Oderisi we have thus outlined a trajectory that has led us to touch on some of the central ideas of Dante's ethics and theology.

We saw, firstly, that in the light of the example of manuscript illumination, Dante's art may be seen, in its being intertwined with the word of God, not only in terms of artistic but also of theological procedure. We then saw that on a narrative level, the intertwinement of poetry and logos may find parallels in the intertwinement of person and logos and of person and person.