Dante and Beatrice


According to the autobiographic La Vita Nuova, Beatrice and Dante met only twice during their lives. Following their first meeting as children, Dante was so enthralled by Beatrice that he later wrote in La Vita Nuova: Ecce Deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur michi ("Behold, a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me").

Dante's courtly love for Beatrice continued for nine years, before the pair finally met again. This meeting occurred in a street of Florence, which she walked along dressed in white and accompanied by two older women. She turned and greeted him, her salutation filling him with such joy that he retreated to his room to think about her. In doing so, he fell asleep, and had a dream which would become the subject of the first sonnet in La Vita Nuova.

Dante and Beatrice, by Henry Holiday.










Beatrice "Bice" di Folco Portinari  was the woman  identified as the inspiration for Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova, and  also  identified with  Beatrice who appears as one of his guides in the Divine Comedy in the last book, Paradiso, and in the last four cantos of Purgatorio. There she takes over as guide from the poet Virgil because,as a pagan, Virgil cannot enter Paradise and because, being the incarnation of beatific love, as her name implies, it is Beatrice who leads into the beatific vision.

She was the daughter of a banker Folco Portinari, and was married to another banker.

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti




“Dante’s Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts Dante’s dream in which he is led to the death-bed of Beatrice Portinari, who was the object of his unfulfilled love. Dante, in black, stands  looking towards the dying Beatrice. Two female figures in green hold the canopy. An angel in red holds Dante’s hand and leans forward to kiss Beatrice.

The artist, Rossetti, had a lifelong passion for the works of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. This painting was inspired by Dante’s poem

 La Vita Nuova when Dante dreams of seeing Beatrice in death. Rossetti, in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, created a work full of complex symbols. The symbols in this painting include:

  • The winged figure of Love who leads Dante, dressed in red, wearing the scallop shell of a pilgrim
  • The angel carries a branch of apple-blossom, a symbol of unconsummated love, plucked before it comes to fruit
  • The green clothes of Beatrice’s attendants, signifying hope
  • The canopy is laden with May-blossom, alluding to the season of Beatrice’s death
  • A view of Florence, Dante’s home is seen in the background
  • Poppies, the flower of death, cover the floor
  • Spring flowers symbolizing purity
  • Red doves for love.