Zoe Langer

Dante in the Museum: Portrait Albums and the Foundation of Italian Literary History (1400-1800)

My work explores how the publication, circulation, and collection of the portrait of Dante Alighieri shaped ideas about the genre of poetry and the invention of literary history in the early modern period (1400 - 1800). I examine the ways that printed portrait books, medals, museums, and libraries in rich the collections at the Herzog August Bibliothek established Dante’s iconography, authorship, and cultural authority in Europe. I am particularly interested in the ways that artists and publishers working in Northern Europe (Frankfurt, Antwerp, Lyon) presented Dante to different print markets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, translating Dante’s authority to multiple authors and audiences. The analysis of these visual sources provides a more complete picture of how readers encountered Italian authors both in Italy and abroad and yields new insights into changing attitudes towards Dante’s position as an author and the history of reading his works from 1500 to 1800. More broadly, I am interested in how the acquisition of albums, single-sheet prints, and printed editions by or featuring Italian authors, namely Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, for the Ducal library in the period of 1550 to 1800 gives us valuable insight into the history of early modern collecting practices and the organization of early modern libraries in Europe.