Sketch for 'Dante and Beatrice'

WAG 8964


This is a study in watercolour, for a painting also in the Walker Art Gallery collection called ‘Dante and Beatrice’ (WAG 3125) by Henry Holiday (1839 - 1927). It is on display in room 08. The theme of the painting is inspired by the autobiography Vita Nuova of the medieval poet Dante (1265 - 1321). Dante concealed his love for Beatrice by pretending to be attracted by other women. The scene depicted in the painting is that of Beatrice refusing to greet Dante because of the gossip that had reached her. This painting, and other preparatory sketches demonstrate the development of the final painting and its various stages. Holiday visited Florence many times, but in 1881 he visited to perfect the scenic setting of ‘Dante and Beatrice’. He conducted research at the Biblioteca Nazionale and went to Siena to study the type of paving and architecture that would have existed at the time of the meeting depicted in the painting (around 1285 – 1290). Compared to this study, the final painting shows a much deeper and sharper perspective – with the Ponte Vecchio, embankment and the hills added to the backdrop.