Orlando Furioso 500 years in Ferrara What did Ludovico Ariosto see when he closed his eyes?

Orlando Furioso 500 years in Ferrara

What did Ludovico Ariosto see when he closed his eyes? What images did he have in mind as he was composing Orlando Furioso, the defining epic of the Italian Renaissance? Which artworks acted as muses to his imagination? These are the questions that the ongoing exhibition Orlando Furioso 500 years, held in Ferrara in commemoration of the five hundred year anniversary of the first edition of Orlando Furioso, aims to explore. The exhibition, set in Biagio Rossetti’s Palazzo dei Diamanti, will run until 8 January 2017.

Composed in Ferrara and printed in the city in 1516, Orlando Furioso is one of the ultimate masterpieces of Western literature and it immediately captured the hearts of Italian and European readers alike. More than a documentary reconstruction, the exposition is a true retrospective: an extraordinary history in images that leads the visitor on an exciting journey through Ariosto’s universe, between battles and tournaments, knights and romances, passions and enchantments. The masterpieces of the greatest artists of the time—from Mantegna to Leonardo, from Raphael to Michelangelo to Titian—in addition to ancient and Renaissance sculptures, engravings, tapestries, weapons, books, and artifacts of extraordinary beauty and value, bring back to life Orlando Furioso’s fantastic world of knights and warriors, at the same time offering an evocative portrait of Ferrara at the time of the work’s conception, with the dreams, wishes, and fantasies of the courtly society of the Italian Renaissance that ariosto immortalized magisterially.


Further reading: Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, translated by G. Waldman, Oxford World’s Classics.


Marco Zoppo, Profile Bust to Left, of a Woman Wearing a Helmet, c. 1448-78, pen and brown ink on vellum, London, The British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings.

Andrea Mantegna, Minerva Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, 1497-1502, tempera on canvas, Paris, Musée du Louvre

Giorgione, Knight and Groom, c. 1505-10, oil on canvas, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi.

Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, G. Mazzocchi, Ferrara 1516, London, The British Library.

Leonardo da Vinci, A Battle Scene with Men, Horses and Elephants, c. 1517-18, red and black chalks on pale red prepared paper, London, The Royal Collection.

Dosso Dossi, Melissa, c. 1518, oil on canvas, Roma, Galleria Borghese.

Titian, The Bacchanal of the Andrians, c. 1523-26, oil on canvas, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Posted by Martina Bollini

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