Ghosts of Ben and Dante in Philadelphia

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Michael wrote to say that he was in Philadelphia, and the view out his hotel window inspired thoughts about some ghosts. –the Artblog editor

Drawing of American Colonial man wearing hat
Franklin, in his fur hat, charmed the French with what they perceived as rustic New World genius.[Note 3]. Image and caption courtesy of Wikipedia

The window of my hotel room in Philadelphia overlooks the grave of Benjamin Franklin. Ben’s spirit presides over Philadelphia. So does Dante. The Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has been here so long it’s almost invisible. Its doors are the Gates of Hell. The thinker atop the Gates and in larger scale outside the Museum is The Thinker. The only garment is Dante’s hat from the only authentic contemporaneous portrait. The Thinker is Dante.

sculptural relief of doors
The Gates of Hell by Rodin, courtesy of the Rodin Museum website. The Thinker, pictured near the top, is said to be a nude (except for the hat) portrait of Dante.
painting of Medieval poet, Dante
Portrait of Dante Alighieri by Unknown Miniaturist, Italian (active 1440s in Florence), date after 1436,
Paper manuscript, 11.61 in. x 7.87 in.

P.S. I first read in some compendious Rodin bio about how Rodin stripped Dante nude but left the hat as acknowledgement of his primary inspiration. Rodin said that’s what he intended. The representation of Dante wearing that hat has been visual shorthand for Dante since when his last friends were still alive and Petrarch had just met Laura. The Time-Life Giotto has, as I recall, a chapter on the various portraits of Dante.

Tags

ben franklin, cemetary, dante, gates of hell, ghosts, rodin

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