New Publication: The Gems of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Ann C. Pizzorusso

In honor of the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, geologist Ann C. Pizzorusso has published a new book, available in English and Italian on the gems Dante used as metaphors in the Divine Comedy.

From a gemological point of view, the Divine Comedy is a veritable treasure trove: containing rubies, topazes, emeralds, sapphires, pearls and diamonds, as well as crystal, amber and glass. Most of the references to gems can be found in the Paradiso, the Canticle of Light, in which Dante makes abundant use of illumination on objects in the form of reflection, refraction and shadow to convey a variety of metaphors and concepts – pearls, the intellectual luster of the wise; rubies, souls of Christian warriors; diamonds, fortitude and steadfastness; and the sapphire, emblematic of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven.

It is evident that Dante was well aware of the intrinsic physical characteristics of each gemstone and its astrological association as well as the spiritual, metaphysical, and medicinal attributes each was purported to possess. His working knowledge of light’s reflection, refraction and dispersion on specific gems is extraordinary as he combines the knowledge of a physicist with the words of a bard. All of this in an era in which many rare, faceted precious stones were entering Europe and the principles of gemology, as we know them, lay centuries in the future.

Using gemological passages from the Divine Comedy, the author will show how Dante used the physical characteristics of each gem to describe the intrinsic characteristics of humanity, starting with man and proceeding upward toward the souls, angels, saints and finally to the divine – as characterized by a brilliant, spotless diamond.

Available on Amazon worldwide in English and Italian in ebook and paperback form.


Published by Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson holds a First Class Honours in the History of Art from the University of Bristol, with a particular focus on Medieval Florence. In 2020 she achieved a Distinction in her MA at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialised in the art and architecture of Medieval England under the supervision of Dr Tom Nickson. Her dissertation focussed on an alabaster altarpiece, and its relationship with the cult of St Thomas Becket in France and the Chartreuse de Vauvert. Her current research focusses on the artistic patronage of London’s Livery Companies immediately pre and post-Reformation. Ellie will begin a PhD at the University of York in Autumn 2021 with a WRoCAH studentship, under the supervision of Professor Tim Ayers and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein.

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