In ancient times, art was even used as mental therapy; it was believed that under its influence, a person’s character, feelings are formed, psychological problems are healed. People get the opportunity to improve, develop spiritually, and find spiritual balance, harmony due to art. Some artists are inspired by the works of other artists, writers, transferring the same motives to their masterpieces. It is possible to trace the perception of fundamental human aspects of life and feelings over the years.
“Beata Beatrix” is one of the most known paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In 1862 Elizabeth Siddal, Rossetti’s muse and wife, died of laudanum poisoning (Rossetti, 1864–1870). The artist used to see a direct connection between his ideal love for Elizabeth and Dante Alighieri’s love for Beatrice. After her death, Rossetti seeks consolation in the poet’s sonnets.
New Life is an autobiographical confession created by Dante in the years following Beatrice’s death. It is the first autobiographical story in Western European literature that reveals the author’s innermost feelings. Dante gives here an unusually subtle and penetrating analysis of the feelings of a loving person. At the same time, the story contains many elements inherited from the literature of the Middle Ages. These are the numerous visions and allegories, the symbolism of the number 9. In this work, Dante’s spiritualistic moods intensify, and his love for Beatrice takes on an increasingly mystical character.
Dante’s Story Captured in the Painting
Rossetti painted Beata Beatrix shortly after the death of Elizabeth Siddal from sketches and drawings, which he made hundreds of during their life together. Grieving his wife’s death, Rossetti, again turning to the oil painting technique, created a monument to Elizabeth – a picture in which he presented her in Beatrice’s image from Dante’s New Life (Rossetti, 1864–1870). Beatrice is depicted at the time of death; Rossetti himself associates himself with Dante mourning his loss (Donnelly, 2016). The woman’s eyes are closed in love-religious ecstasy; she is alive and dead at the same time.
In addition to the image of Beatrice, the picture shows two more figures. There is a figure of Love in a bright red robe on the left, holding a flaming heart. Rossetti accepted this vision from Dante’s New Life; in the character’s disturbing dream, an angel feeds Beatrice with the poet’s blazing heart before taking her to heaven with him (Donnelly, 2016). On the right is a person in gray-green clothes. It is not clear whether Dante Alighieri, with the book “New Life” in his hands or Rossetti with poems written after his wife’s death (Donnelly, 2016). The painted bridge is similar to Ponte Vecchio – the famous bridge over the Arno River in Florence, where Dante lived and worked.
The clock shows a specific time – nine o’clock; the number “nine” is symbolic for Dante. Rossetti (1895) pointed out that Dante met Beatrice when he was nine years old; she died at nine o’clock on June 9, 1290″. There is also a direct link with Dante’s The Divine Comedy, as the nine circles of hell and the nine heavens of paradise, which Dante passes on his way to the tenth heaven, where he meets Beatrice.
Impact of these Works
“Beata Beatrix” is a fantastic picture that combines two different stories that take place at different epochs. Contemplating a vision, people think about how and why it was created, trying to understand its meaning and the people depicted on the canvas. All this makes us look at the world from a different perspective and accept all people and their positions. Empathy is one of the primary resources of human happiness; art is an important source. Literature and painting evoke immensely powerful emotions. Concerning art influence on life and career, they make people think. Without understanding a person’s feelings, art loses its meaning. Its primary task pushes the boundaries, broadens the mind, and teaches to understand and reflect on everyday topics from other views.
Donnelly, B. (2016). Reading Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Painter as Poet. Routledge.
Rossetti, D. G. (1864–1870). Beata Beatrix [painting]. Tate Britain, London, UK. Web.
Rossetti, D. G. (1895). Dante Gabriel Rossetti: his family-letters (Vol. 1). Ellis and Elvey.