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#52 "Botticelli's Secret": A Conversation with Joseph Luzzi

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Saturday, November 26th on Zoom

10am Los Angeles, 11am Phoenix, 1pm NY & Toronto, 6pm London, 7pm Italy

In this free session of Paola's Studiolo, I am honored to sit down with Joseph Luzzi, Professor of Comparative Literature at Bard College, New York. We will talk about his latest book about Sandro Botticelli, and his last, near-impossible project – to illustrate all 100 cantos of The Divine Comedy by the city’s greatest poet, Dante Alighieri. A powerful encounter between poet and artist, sacred and secular, earthly and evanescent, these drawings produced a wealth of stunning images but were never finished. Botticelli declined into poverty and obscurity, and his illustrations went missing for 400 years. Their nineteenth-century rediscovery brought scholars to their knees: this work embodied everything the Renaissance had come to mean. Professor Luzzi will explain not only how and why this artist became iconic, but why we still need his work―and the spirit of the Renaissance―today. To get to know my guest, here is his outstanding TED Talk.


Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) teaches Comparative Literature and Italian Studies at Bard College. His most recent book is Botticelli’s Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance (2022). He is also the author of Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy (2008), winner of the MLA’s Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies; A Cinema of Poetry: Aesthetics of the Italian Art Film (2014); My Two Italies (2014), a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection; In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love (2015), a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection that has been translated into multiple languages. Two forthcoming books include his new translation of Dante’s Vita Nuova; and his study Dante’s “Divine Comedy”: A Biography will appear in 2024. Luzzi’s public-facing writing has appeared in the New York Times, TLS, London Times, Los Angeles Times, American Scholar, Bookforum, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere, and his awards include a Dante Society of America Essay Prize, National Humanities Center Fellowship, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti. In 2017 he was named Cittadino Onorario/Honorary Citizen in Acri, Calabria, his Italian parents’ birthplace. In 2022 Joseph received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Award in support of his book project Brunelleschi’s Children: How a Renaissance Orphanage Saved 400,000 Lives and Reinvented Childhood. Professor Luzzi recently created The Virtual Book Club, an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present. The Virtual Book Club is open to new members, sign up is available at

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