Madonna Pietra Degli Scrovigni

WAG 923


Madonna Pietra Degli Scrovigni (My Lady Stone) is a character from a poem by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The lady is described as beautiful and inspiring great passion, but 'utterly more moved than is the stone'. The poem plays off the interaction of winter and summer, dark and light, yellow and green, themes which Stillman explores in this watercolour. She uses imagery of dead leaves, blackthorn and hellebore to symbolise coldness and winter, and the model gazes out at the viewer steadily and calmly. This type of painting, a half-length femme-fatale in Renaissance costume, was initiated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) and imitated by others in his circle. In fact, Rossetti had translated, and probably popularised, the poem which lends the painting its title. Stillman and Rossetti were friends: she had modelled for one of the handmaidens in his painting 'Dante's Dream', now in the Walker Art Gallery's collection (WAG 3091). It has been suggested that this watercolour is an homage to Rossetti, who had died in 1882.