Excuse me waiter, there’s a medieval poet in my gravy.

My mother has quite a knack for buying weird gifts. A few years ago, for my 21st birthday, after I had asked for ‘either a bicycle or a kitten’, she bought me a trumpet. I don’t even play the trumpet. But it was a fun gift nevertheless, and something that I will hopefully have forever. Probably not as fun as a kitten I imagine, but we’ll let bygones be bygones and all that…

Annnnyway, so, it’s my birthday again next week and, if truth be told, I’m feeling a little depressed about it, since this will officially mark my passing from ‘early-twenties’ to ‘mid-twenties’, which means that I’m one step closer to dying and I still don’t have a job/house/relationship/kitten. I’ve given up asking for specific presents now (after witnessing my brother unwrap a giant spacehopper at Christmas, thinking he was getting a laptop), but I’m so chuffing glad I have, because quirky-gift-finder extraordinaire, Mamma T, has totally pulled it out of the bag this year.

For (alongside a three-pack of Kinder Eggs and some Chanel perfume), the matriarch last night presented me with a collection of little postcards from 1921, each with a scene from Dante’s life on it. They are all French (even better, in my eyes) and apparently were given away in tins of OXO at the time. And here they are in all of their resplendent glory:

La Maison de Dante et rencontre de Béatrix

Dante, ambassadeur des Florentins

Dante, hôte de Castelbarco au château de Lizzana (Roverto)

Dante reçu, par le Frère Ilario, au Monastère de Corvo

Dante Alighieri au Lac de Garde

Funérailles de Dante

On the back of each of the cards, there’s a little story about the scene depicted on the front. So, for example, on the back of the funeral card, there’s a little paragraph saying (in French) that Dante died on 14 September 1321 in Ravenna, surrounded by his weeping family, with a celestial vision of Beatrice in his eyes. He was buried wearing a crown of laurels and – at his own request – the habit of the Franciscan monks.

I love stuff like this! Just think, these were like the 1920s equivalent of Tazos that you used to get free in bags of crisps, except that the people who were opening the tins of OXO were (probably) dressed as flapper girls instead of in Nike trainers and those awful Adidas trackie bottoms that had press-studs down the sides and were all the rage in the 90s. I’d love it if Tazos became as chic as OXO cards though, because I’ve got the entire collection of them and it might be worth a bob or two…

So there you go: Dante was so famous in France in the early 20th century that they had to stick little facts about him in tins of gravy. Quel accolade!

Sarah x

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