Giorgio Vasari, “Six Tuscan Poets”, 1554, Oil on Canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis,Minnesota
In this group portrait “Six Tuscan Poets” by Giorgio Vasari, six distinguished poets and philosophers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are shown as if engaged in a literary conversation. Each was revered for his role in the development of lyric poetry, which helped establish the Tuscan dialect as the standard language in Italy.
The seated figure is Dante Alighieri, author of the “Divine Comedy”. Facing him is Guido Cavalcanti, acclaimed for his love sonnets. The standing figure in clerical garb is the humanist and classical scholar Francesco Petrarch; to his right is Giovanni Boccaccio, author of the “Decameron”. The figures at the far left are two authoritative commentators on their works, the humanist and writer Marsilio Ficino and the platonic philosopher Cristoforo Landino.
All four of the main figures wear laurel wreaths, symbolic of literary achievement. The objects on the table represent various scholarly disciplines. The solar quadrant and celestial globe denote astronomy and astrology; the compass and terrestrial globe, geometry and geography; the books, grammar and rhetoric.