Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Couples, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Shocking revelation

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m sharing from my alternative history, with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.

This comes shortly after last week’s excerpt, when Dante, newly widowed, found Beatrice walking down the street alone at night. When she collapsed outside his house, he picked her up and immediately realized she has a high fever. She said her husband beat her before leaving for Cyprus on business, and that he also discovered and destroyed the herbal concoctions she secretly used for birth control.

Now comes an even more shocking revelation.

“You’re safe here, Bice,” I said in a shaking voice. “I won’t let de ’Bardi take you away when he returns. If I have to, I’ll hide you in another city until you’re widowed. Maybe your father will agree to help with getting an annulment.”

“He thinks I’ve been committing adultery with you.” Her voice had faded to almost a whisper. “That’s why he beat me.”

I almost dropped her upon hearing this revelation. Of all the things anyone could believably accuse me of, adultery was beyond the beyond.  Beatrice and I had never been alone during her entire marriage, and when we exchanged words at church, in the street, or at her family’s celebrations to which I was invited, we only spoke of mundane, respectable things.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Not one personal word suggesting an inappropriate relationship passed our lips, though almost everyone in Fiorenza knew we’d been close friends since childhood. Neither did we send letters to one another. Perhaps the look of adoration in my eyes betrayed my true feelings, but there was no other evidence which would prove such an accusation.

“Francesco, Tana, come inside,” I called through the back door. “We’ll have to stargaze another night. A terrible calamity has occurred. There’s no time to explain.”

My siblings ran into the house and stopped abruptly when they saw me carrying Beatrice.

“Can we do anything to help?” Tana asked.

“You can summon Galfrido and ask him to fetch Dr. Salvetti. Tell him it’s urgent.”

Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Shocking surprise

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m sharing from my alternative history, with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.

This comes from very early in Chapter XVII, “Complicated Crisis.” It’s now December 1287, and Dante has been a widower for a month. Despite still being in deep grief and following mourning customs, he recently resumed tutoring his much-younger halfsister Tana and teaching his halfbrother Francesco things he doesn’t learn at school.

Aiutami means “Help me.”

Copyright Suiseiseki

Since Francesco’s favorite subject was astronomy, the three of us sometimes sat outside at night in the courtyard, weather permitting, and gazed up at the stars. This always gave me a great sense of peace, knowing people the world over had sat underneath the same night sky and looked at those beautiful little orbs of light, as long as world there had been. Likewise, our descendants would be looking up at the same stars many millennia after we had all been gathered up into God’s eternal glory and our physical casings had turned to dust.

The serene silence of early night was broken by a female voice shouting “Aiutami!” Without taking a moment to reflect, I jumped up from the stone steps and ran around to the front of the house. That was my lady’s voice, which I would recognize undimmed from the highest place where thunder roars or the very bottom of the sea.

My eyes grew wide when I saw Beatrice stumbling down the street, unaccompanied by anyone, not even a link boy with a lit torch. She tumbled onto the stone street a few feet away from my front door and didn’t attempt to pull herself back up.

I rushed to her side and lifted her, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and nestled her head against my shoulder. Through my wool tunic, I could feel her radiating heat, and when I looked closer at her under the light of the Moon, I saw her face was red.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“Mone found my herbs,” she said in a muffled voice. “He smashed the jars and burnt the remains, and then he beat me much worse than usual.”

“‘Worse than usual’? You never told me he beat you at all!”

“How was I supposed to say that when we’re not allowed to be alone together anymore and can only discuss certain things when we do see each other? It was never nearly that brutal before, and not very often.” She locked her arms even tighter around my neck, and her voice became more labored. “I feel so faint, and my skin is so hot. Mone dismissed all our manservants before he sailed to Cyprus on business, and the maidservants took ill. They’re with God now.”

Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—High emotions at Mass

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m sharing from my alternative history, with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.

This comes from Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond,” right after last week’s excerpt. It’s now 1287, and Dante just lost his wife Gemma Donati in childbirth. The baby was a premature stillborn.

Despite being submerged in grief, Dante feels obligated to attend Mass with his much-younger halfsiblings. Before the service starts, his longtime love Beatrice, whom he’s never abandoned hope of someday marrying despite everything, senses something is very wrong. Dante’s little sister Tana tells her what happened.

Beatrice’s emerald windows softened, and she crossed herself. “May God grant them eternal rest. If your family needs anything, my family won’t hesitate to help you. No favor is too great to ask.” She smiled down at Tana. “Would you like to stand with me during Mass?”

Tana shook her head. “I’m staying with my brothers.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, carissima.” Beatrice put her hand on my arm.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“Once again, I’m truly sorry to hear about Gemma and the baby. We should all be eager to taste eternal life in God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean make death easier to accept. God put us on this Earth first for a reason. He didn’t create us to exist forever in Paradise.”

“Your kind words are very much appreciated.” In the thick of so much grief, I couldn’t bring myself to think about how I was now legally free to marry her as soon as she lost her own first spouse. Gemma wasn’t even enshrouded or in a tomb yet, while de ’Bardi was still very much among the living.

Mass passed in a blur, and my legs were like meat jelly wobbling about on a platter. My arms were trembling too wildly to cross myself, and not one prayer escaped my throat. I collapsed like one paralyzed at the conclusion of services, and had to be helped home by Ricovero and Forese. What happened next I cannot recall, so lost was I in a dark, dismal, and wild forest of anguish.

Posted in Beatrice Portinari, Dante

Artwork of Dante and Beatrice

In July, I spotlighted seven artists who illustrated The Divine Comedy, and in September, I spotlighted nine artists who did scenes from the poem. Now let’s look at some of the artists who created works of Dante and Beatrice outside of the poem.

The Salutation of Beatrice (1859), by Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti, has long been one of my favorites. I’ve used it as a desktop picture and blog banner several times in the past. It perfectly captures the longing and gnawing at the heart of unrequited love, being so close to someone you adore so much yet unable to express your true feelings.

Mr. Rossetti was born Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, but began using his final middle name as his first name in honor of the Supreme Poet. Throughout his artistic career, he painted many Dantean artworks.

I absolutely adore this painting. Entitled Incipit Vita Nova (The New Life Begins), it’s by Cesare Sacaggi and shows Dante and Beatrice as children. He painted it in 1903, in Pre-Raphaelite style, though he belonged to the school of Tortona (i.e., a generation of artists working in Tortona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).

Dante’s First Meeting with Beatrice was painted by Pre-Raphaelite Simeon Solomon sometime between 1859–63. Surprisingly, I haven’t found many paintings or drawings of this famous meeting of May Day 1274.

Pre-Raphaelite Marie Spartali Stillman did another painting of that meeting in 1887, The May Feast at the House of Folco Portinari, 1274. For awhile, I was confused and thought that meeting took place in 1275, because Dante seems to say he was nine years old, very close to his tenth birthday. But you have to read the opening line of Chapter II of La Vita Nuova more carefully.

“Nine times already since my birth the heaven of light had circled back to almost the same point” means, in the heliocentric understanding of the Universe, that the Sun had made almost nine full circles around the Earth since his birth. From late May 1265 to May Day 1274 was just shy of nine such revolutions. Thus, Dante was actually eight and about to turn nine.

Salvatore Postiglione did this artwork, entitled simply Dante and Beatrice, either sometime in the second late 19th century or very early 20th. In so many paintings of Dante, he’s depicted holding a book and dressed in red.

Mr. Postiglione belonged to the Realist school of art.

Frederick Richard Pickersgill also entitled this artwork Dante and Beatrice. There isn’t a date I could find for this one either, but we know it was done sometime during the 19th century. Many of his works depicted scenes from history, literature, and religion.

Raffaele Giannetti painted Dante and Beatrice in the Garden of Boboli in 1877. This is one of a series of Dantean paintings he did in a Pre-Raphaelite style.

Here’s another Rossetti painting, from 1856 (reproduced in much larger scale in 1871), Dante’s Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice. The green clothes of the ladies symbolize hope; the flowers on the floor symbolize purity; and the red doves symbolize love. This is Rossetti’s largest artwork.

Rossetti also painted this, The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice, in 1853. It depicts the events of Chapter XXXIV of La Vita Nuova, when Dante is interrupted from drawing angels by an unexpected visit.

And yet another Rossetti painting! This was done in 1852, and is entitled Giotto Painting the Portrait of Dante. His initials and the date can be seen a bit left of center. It was meant to be part of a triptych, with the other panels depicting Dante as a Florentine magistrate, sending his former best friend Guido de’ Cavalcanti into exile, and at the court of Can Grande della Scala.

Giuseppe Bertini, part of the Verismo (Italian Realism) school, painted The Meeting of Dante and the Ilario Monks between 1844–45. It’s set in an Augustinian convent.

The famous Renaissance artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari painted Italian Humanists in 1544, depicting Dante and six other leading figures of the late Middle Ages. The others are Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Cino da Pistoia, Guido Cavalcanti, and Guittone d’Arezzo.

Scottish artist Sir Joseph Noel Paton painted Dante Meditating the Episode of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta in 1852. Though he declined an invitation to join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Sir Paton nevertheless painted in that style.

Pre-Raphaelite Henry Holiday painted the simply-titled Dante and Beatrice between 1882–84, and travelled to Florence so he could see the Ponte Vecchio, the stone streets, and other real-life landmarks that existed in the Middle Ages firsthand. He also created clay models of some of the buildings.

Like Rossetti’s Salutation of Beatrice, this painting too perfectly captures the longing look of unrequited love, feeling a gnawing at your heart from being so close to someone you have such intense feelings for but unable to do anything about it.

Antonio Cotti, Dante in Verona, 1879.

Dante (He Hath Seen Hell), Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1864. Both this and the above painting are based on the belief Dante’s contemporaries had, that he’d truly visited Hell.

Annibale Gatti did several versions of Dante in Exile, in 1850, 1854, and 1858. His oeuvre was historical works.

Though a popular image of Dante with a hatchet face and aquiline nose persists, the Pre-Raphaelites gave him a more human, even romantic look. Modern forensic reconstruction bears out this warm, human appearance of an everyday fellow, even if he might not have been classically handsome.

Posted in 1270s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Couples, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—The party ends

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This comes right after last week’s excerpt, when a group of young Maggerini (May Day singers) came to the courtyard to perform. Now the happy mood of the party is broken by the necessity of leaving prematurely.

The word “windows” was frequently used to refer to eyes in Medieval Italy.

Babbo came up behind me and put his hand on my back. “Dante, we must return home. Unlike certain other people here, we haven’t the luxury of spending all day at a party. Work can’t entirely stop for the sake of Calendimaggio.”

I bent my head slightly. “Yes, Babbo.” As badly as I wished to remain here the rest of the day and prolong my closeness to Beatrice, I wanted even more to avoid tasting the sting of the birch and transforming a joyous day into a ruined, unhappy day. “May I bid farewell to my friends first?”

“Of course, but don’t take too much time doing it or let anyone pull you into a long conversation. I have important business to resume, and you have Latin to study.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

To my great delight, when I turned to my right, I found Beatrice’s lovely emerald windows directly fixed upon me. An angelic smile graced her countenance.

“It was very nice meeting you and your family, Bice. I hope we’re able to visit again soon.”

“I enjoyed meeting you too. I’m surprised we never met before when we live in the same neighborhood and also both have summer villas in Fiesole.” She adjusted the violet crown I’d set upon her head. “Ricovero and I will put in a good word about you with our parents. I don’t think they’ll disapprove of you visiting us again.”

I smiled at her and nodded. “The next time I visit, I’ll bring a little gift to thank your parents for their hospitality. God should bless your family in all things.”