Dante Gabriel Rossetti
British, 1828 - 1882
La Pia de' Tolomei
Date: circa 1868-80
The subject is taken from the final lines of Canto V of the Purgatorio, in which Dante
describes his meeting with La Pia. She had been imprisoned in a fortress in the
Maremma, a marshy region on the Tuscan coast, and eventually killed, deliberately or
through neglect, by her husband, Nello della Pietra.
La Pia sits on the ramparts of the fortress framed against ivy, representative of 'clinging
memory', toying with her wedding ring, once a joy and now a mockery. In the foreground a
sundial symbolizes the passing of time and beside it her rosary rests on a breviary,
beneath which can be seen old love letters from her husband.
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