Mitelli, the artist who dreamed of the alphabet

In 1683, Bologna-born engraver and painter Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (whom we have written about in an article some time ago) published his “Alfabeto in sogno”, literally “Alphabet in a Dream”: a most interesting drawing tutorial in which the letters in the Italian alphabet are made up of a mix of human figures, other living beings, and objects.

In the introduction to the book, Mitelli tells “his pupils” that none other than Morpheus visited him in a dream.

The mythological minister of oneiric apparitions surrounded him “with shapes and visions regarding the noble art of Drawing […]: he represented the letters of the Alphabet formed by shapeless ghosts and confused images, and ordered me to turn into proportionate figures those embryos, which disappeared as soon as they were born.”

“Thus, I woke up immediately and laid them out symmetrically, and dedicate them to your diligent efforts.”

Here is Mitelli’s bizarre “human alphabet”.

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March 11, 2019