BOOK REVIEW / Illuminated work: Paradiso: The Illuminations to Dante's Divine Comedy by Giovanni di Paolo, with introduction and commentary by John Pope-Hennessy, Thames & Hudson pounds 45.

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The Independent Culture
THIS remarkable cycle of 61 gleaming, jewel- like miniatures, illustrating the third book of the Divine Comedy, was created in about 1445 by Giovanni di Paolo, a Sienese artist, for the library of the King of Naples. Here the set is reproduced in full for the first time. Each illumination carries a short commentary and explanatory note, while the introduction gives us an overview of di Paolo's work as well as a discussion of other illustrated versions of Dante's work across the centuries.

The plate on the right shows Dante and Beatrice, having left the heaven of Mars and entered that of Jupiter, encountering the souls of the 'just rulers' formed into the shape of an eagle with outspread wings. For Dante, this eagle symbolised both imperial authority and divine justice, the marriage of temporal and spiritual powers: through the eagle's beak, the just souls answer Dante's questions on justice. The eagle denounces 10 'unjust rulers', all crowned heads of Europe, and the following illustrations show the eagle telling Dante to look at the faces which make up its eye and eyebrow. In the eye he sees the figure of King David.

A learned and superbly produced volume, it includes the full text of the Paradiso in the translation of Charles Singleton.

(Photograph omitted)

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