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The Cover
September 1, 1999

Allegorical Portrait of Dante

JAMA. 1999;282(9):813. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.813

Guesses have been made, speculations entertained, possibilities examined and dismissed, and still no one has identified the author of the remarkable painting known as Allegorical Portrait of Dante (cover ). The identification of the subject, on the other hand, leaves little room for doubt. The singular profile, the crown of laurel leaves, the open book on whose facing pages may be read—in Italian—the first 48 lines of Canto XXV of Paradiso, the Stygian river, Mount Purgatory, the golden light of heaven, all identify the author of The Divine Comedy. If additional confirmation were needed, one might look to the lower left corner, where the poet extends his hand over the unique domes and towers of his beloved Florence, as if to shield it from the flames licking up from below. Less certain, however, are the precise time and origin of the work; it is generally accepted to be of Florentine origin, perhaps even from the circle of Vasari, and to have been painted sometime in the late 16th century, more than 250 years after the poet's death. Among painters suggested by name have been Battista Naldini and Gerolamo Macchietti, as well as Pontormo and Bacchiacca.