The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are being exhibited online, for free, by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

They are normally only available to view by a handful of scholars and have been seen by the public just twice: first in 1865 and again in 1993.

Dante Alighieri, known as the father of the Italian language, was born in Florence in 1265.

The poet died in 1321, aged 56, while in exile in Ravenna, where his tomb can be visited today at the Basilica di San Francesco.

His epic poem, The Divine Comedy, is split into three parts and traces a pilgrim’s journey through hell, purgatory and heaven.

Today, the masterpiece is widely considered to be the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

The sketches were completed by Zuccari during a stay in Spain between 1586 and 1588.

Of the 88 illustrations, 28 are depictions of hell, 49 of purgatory and 11 of heaven.

After Zuccari’s death in 1609, the drawings were held by the noble Orsini family, for whom the artist had worked, and later by the Medici family before becoming part of the Uffizi collection in 1738.

Owing to their fragility, only a selection of the pencil-and-ink drawings have been exhibited publicly in the past.

The first time was in Florence in 1865 to mark the 600th anniversary of Dante’s birth as well as the Italian unification, and the second time was for an exhibition in Abruzzo in 1993.

Events commemorating the anniversary of Dante’s death are expected to take place throughout the year in Florence, Ravenna and 70 other towns and villages connected to him either through his writing or personal life.

To keep up to date with events for the “anno dantesco” as they are announced, follow the Dante2021 website.