Rossetti had a life-long interest in the Italian poet Dante. This painting shows an episode from the 'Vita Nuova'. In it Dante dreams that he is led by Love to the death-bed of Beatrice Portinari, the object of his unrequited passion.
This is Rossetti's largest ever painting. In it he creates a visionary world through soft, rich colours and complex symbols. The attendants wear green for hope, while the spring blossoms signify purity. The red doves indicate the presence of love and the poppies symbolise the sleep of dreams and death.
The model for Beatrice was Jane Morris (1839 - 1914), with whom Rossetti had a long-term affair.