Who Is Maria Spartali Stillman?
Marie Euphrosyne Spartali, later Stillman, (1844 –1927), was a British Pre-Raphaelite painter and model, arguably the greatest female artist of that movement. During a sixty-year career, she produced over one hundred and fifty works, contributing regularly to exhibitions in Great Britain and the United States. (2)
One Dante Is Never Enough
Note that Marie Spartali Stillman – both painter and model – has a story that cannot be fully told without two Dantes: early Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri, whose poetry inspired Marie’s paintings, and fellow Pre-Raphaelite painter , for whom she modeled. More of this story will accompany future posts about the Pre-Raphaelites.
Pre-Raphaelite Model and Artist
This is where the story gets a bit confusing. If you are thinking that Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s drawing of Marie Spartali Spillman looks quite similar to the featured painting called ‘Beatrice’ by Marie Spartali Spillman, well, I must agree with you! As well as being an accomplished Pre-Raphaelite painter, Marie Spartali Spillman also boasts one of the most recognized female faces of her time because she modeled for:
- Brown; Edward Burne-Jones (The Mill);
- Julia Margaret Cameron;
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti (A Vision of Fiammetta, Dante’s Dream, The Bower Meadow); and
- Spencer Stanhope.
However, Marie Spartali Stillman is, first and foremost, a gifted artist, as her paintings aptly demonstrate.
Marie Spartali Stillman’s Earthly Beatrice
Loosely inspired by the writings of the early Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), this painting by Marie Spartali Stillman depicts Dante’s beloved Beatrice who appears in both the Vita Nuova and Purgatory.
“While Dante’s Beatrice is described in terms of the divine, Stillman paints a more earthly beauty, lost in thought as she contemplates her reading.” (1)
Is Beatrice a Real Person?
Scholars have long debated whether the historical Beatrice Portinari (1265 – 1290) is intended to be identified with either or both of the Beatrices in Dante Alighieri’s writings. She was apparently the daughter of the banker Folco Portinari and was married to another banker, Simone dei Bardi. Dante claims to have met a “Beatrice” only twice, on occasions separated by nine years, but was so affected by the meetings that he carried his love for her throughout his life. (3)
Beatrice’s influence was far from simple inspiration. She appears as a character in his two greatest works—La Vita Nuova and Divine Comedy. This mysterious Italian woman has been commonly identified as the following: (3)
- The principal inspiration for Dante Alighieri’s Vita Nuova, in which she is described as “gentilissima” and “benedetta” (meaning “most kind” and “blessed” respectively). (3)
- The Beatrice who appears as one of his guides in the Divine Comedy and causes his trip through the afterlife so he might see what awaits him. Here she is described as being “maternal, radiant and comforting” (specifically in the last book, Paradiso, and in the last four cantos of Purgatorio).
- The guide from the Latin poet Virgil because, as a pagan, Virgil cannot enter Paradise and because, being the incarnation of beatific love, as her name implies, it is Beatrice who leads into the beatific vision.
Beatrice Portinari has been immortalized not only in Dante’s poems, but also in paintings by Pre-Raphaelite masters and poets in the nineteenth century.(1) (2) (3)
Click for Enlarged Detail:
Slideshow best viewed At Sunnyside
Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927), Beatrice, (1895), Medium: watercolor, gouache and tempera mounted on paper, Dimensions: Height: 22.6 in (57.6 cm); Width: 17 in (43.1 cm), Location: Delaware Art Museum, Image source: Wikimedia Commons
- Artist: Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927), British painter and model
- Title: Beatrice
- Person Depicted: Beatrice Portinari
- Date: 1895
- Medium: watercolor, gouache and tempera mounted on paper
- Dimensions: Height: 22.6 in (57.6 cm); Width: 17 in (43.1 cm)
- Location: Delaware Art Museum
- Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Marie Spartali Stillman – Beatrice (1895).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Marie_Spartali_Stillman_-_Beatrice_(1895).jpg&oldid=193521759 (accessed November 4, 2018).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Marie Spartali Stillman,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Marie_Spartali_Stillman&oldid=852701123 (accessed November 4, 2018).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Beatrice Portinari,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Beatrice_Portinari&oldid=864016479 (accessed November 9, 2018).
- “Poetry in beauty: The pre-raphaelite art of Marie Spartali Stillman” http://www.delart.org/exhibits/poetry-in-beauty-the-pre-raphaelite-art-of-marie-spartali-stillman/ , (accessed 9 Nov 2018).
- Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Marie Spartali Stillman.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Marie_Spartali_Stillman.jpg&oldid=227325943 (accessed November 9, 2018).
To Research Further:
- Paintings by Marie Spartali Stillman
- Looking Closely at Marie Spartali Stillman’s Embroidered Garments
Thanks for Visiting 🙂