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La "Comedia" di Dante Aligiehri con la nova esposizione.

Alessandro Vellutello. La "Comedia" di Dante Aligiehri con la nova esposizione.

3 vols. Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi. Ed. Donato Pirovano. Rome: Salerno Editrice S.r.l., 2006. 1,764 pp. + 87 b/w pls. index. $190. ISBN: 88-8402-551-6.

Unlike his earlier 1525 commentary to Petrarch, which was reprinted several times, Alessandro Vellutello's commentary on Dante, a "nova espositione," was only a modest success. Published by Francesco Marcolini in 1544, this work was never reprinted. Twenty years later Francesco Sansovino published something of a hybrid edition of the Comedia in 1564, which featured the text from the 1502 Aldine edition and Landino's and Vellutello's commentaries, a production that was subsequently republished by the Sessa firm in 1578 and 1596. To judge from a letter of Michelangelo to his nephew Lionardo, contemporaries were not impressed with Vellutello's achievements: "Tell Giovan Simone [Michelangelo's brother] that the new commentary on Dante by a Lucchese hasn't been very well received by people who know anything, so there's no need to pay any attention to it." Donato Pirovano's superb edition suggests that the artist and his circle may have been hasty in their assessments: Vellutello's commentary merits reconsideration and scholarly study.

Previous assessments of Vellutello's commentary by Michele Barbi, Aldo Vallone, and Emilio Bigi have noted its most distinctive general features: Vellutello's disagreements with Landino on his commentary and Bembo on the text of Aldine text edition as well as with Manetti on the dimensions of the Inferno. Pirovano's introduction rehearses this tradition and turns to fresh matters: new notices on Vellutello's life (1473-?), the xylographs commissioned for the commentary, Vellutello's philological work, digital versions of the commentary (all deplorably error-ridden), and the extent of Vellutello's debt to commentators besides Landino (particularly Martino Paolo Nibia, who edited Jacopo della Lana's commentary in 1478, and the Chiose Ambrosiane). While there are some oversights, such as the failure to incorporate recent work done by Simon Gilson and Brian Richardson on Dante's fortuna during the Renaissance, the introduction presents an admirably thorough overview, far surpassing earlier assessments of Vellutello's contributions to the commentary tradition.

Pirovano's discussion of the xylographs deserves special mention. As Doni reveals in his 1550 Libraria, Vellutello "s'e affaticato con l'intelletto e con la spesa del tempo e de' danari" to have the eighty-seven illustrations engraved. Possibly executed by Giovanni Britto, who worked as an engraver for Francesco Marcolini, these illustrations are (after Baccio Baldini's adaptations of Botticelli's illustrations) the most distinctive Renaissance renditions of the poem. Pirovano describes the scenes from each canto portrayed in the illustrations, noting the distinctive use of a circular design for Inferno and an aerial-like perspective. Pirovano also indicates when the illustrator extends features of Dante's narrative, pointing out, for example, in his discussion of the xylograph for Purg. 3, that one of the souls indicates with a gesture where Dante and Virgil should begin their ascent up the mountain, whereas in the poem this information is conveyed verbally. Unlike the majority of illustrations that accompany sixteenth-century printed editions of the Commedia, these depictions are closely related to Vellutello's glosses. A "vera novita," as Pirovano declares, they strive to render the narrative accurately, much as Vellutello's exposition seeks to do.

The most distinctive features of Vellutello's commentary are his assiduous efforts to clarify the poem's literal meaning, its historical allusions, and the topography of the three realms of the afterlife. While Manetti was largely interested in determining the site, form, and dimensions of Inferno, Vellutello extends these calculations to Purgatory and Paradise. The introduction to Purgatory offers detailed estimations of the island-mountain's dimensions and height at different points. Discussions of historical events are enriched with extensive references to Giovanni Villani's Croniche, a work with which Vellutello was very familiar. Having prepared a new text of the poem, Vellutello's aim is to explicate Dante with Dante. In practice this consists of glossing Dante's locutions and cross-referencing analogous points throughout the commentary: after noting the extraordinary height of the mountain of Purgatory in Purg. 4, for example, Vellutello refers the reader to Ulysses' earlier observation in Inf. 26. Having reduced considerably Landino's extensive allegorizing, Vellutello provides a very different focus, and in so doing undertakes an ongoing dialogue with the preceding exegetical tradition.

Published five years after Paolo Proccaccioli's edition of Landino's commentary, the first in the series of commentaries produced by the Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi, this new edition of Vellutello's "nova espositione" offers students of the commentary tradition a superb critical apparatus with which to assess Vellutello's achievement. This edition will facilitate considerably investigations into Vellutello's sources, his treatment of Dante's lexicon, and the Commedia's rich figurative tradition.


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Author:Parker, Deborah
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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