by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
And I saw light that took a river's form –
light flashing, reddish-gold, between two banks
painted with wonderful spring flowerings.
Out of that stream there issued living sparks,
which settled on the flowers on all sides,
like rubies set in gold; and then, as if
intoxicated with the odors, they
again plunged into the amazing flood:
as one spark sank, another spark emerged. (Par. XXX, 61-69)
The beauty of the garden holding the Celestial Rose in the Empyrean is described as a painting. In this case, one can assume the artisan is God. What is so amazing about this scene is that the rich and colorful garden Dante sees here – full of "reddish-gold" light, "wonderful spring flowers" and "living sparks…settl[ing] on flowers" – shows but a fraction of its true beauty. Dante must improve his vision to see it in all its true glory. Interestingly, this art has an organic component (the "living sparks," indicative of shining souls); it is not merely an inanimate crafted object. The difference, then, between God and a traditional artist is that he can infuse his art with life.
So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion was shown to me – the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride. (Par. XXXI, 1-3)
As Dante hints here, the Celestial Rose – where all the blessed souls sit – is well-organized. It shows that this is not a random object thrown into being by nature, but a carefully designed object. The Rose, in its order and symmetry, is a work of art.
O grace abounding, through which I presumed
to set my eyes on the Eternal Light
so long that I spent all my sight on it!
In its profundity I saw – ingathered
and bound by love into one single volume –
what, in the universe, seems separate, scattered:
substances, accidents, and dispositions
as if conjoined – in such a way that what
I tell is only rudimentary. (Par. XXXIII, 82-90)
In the final lines of Paradiso, Dante compares God to "one single volume." This is not only a clever play on the word of God, but also evidence that God is an artist. He takes "what, in the universe, seems separate, scattered" and "conjoin[s]" it in a way that is so perfectly ordered that Dante can only speak of it in a "rudimentary" way.