Wedding gift!?

June 7, 2013 / Art & Archaeology
Florence, Tuscany

So, Nastagio comes into a load of money via some deceased relatives, and decides to spend it on lavish banquets and parties to woo Bianca Traversari, the woman he’s madly in love with.

Bad call on Nastagio’s part. Not only does Bianca rebuff his affections, but she mocks him in front of all his relatives and friends.

At his friends’ suggestion, he decides to get out of town (Ravenna) to clear his head and get over her. No such luck… he only manages to disconsolately mope around the woods and think about her even more.

During such moping one day, a (according to Botticelli, quite naked) young lady tears into a clearing in the woods, pursued by hounds and a knight hot on her heels. Nastagio tries to chase off the dogs…

(here Nastagio is featured twice. Once moping, and then he’s also to the right with stick in hand trying to shoo the dogs away)


(By the way, the first three of these four wooden panels are at the Prado in Madrid. )

….but the hounds manage to catch up with the lass, allowing the knight to dismount and eviscerate her, feeding her entrails to his dogs. Absolutely abominable.

(knight and lady are depicted twice here, foreground and background. Think gruesome comic book/graphic novel.)


Needless to say Nastagio is completely horrified, and at that point only manages a feeble, “Hey knight, what’s up with that?!”

Turns out, it’s a curse (no kidding, she might have said). The knight tells the story: he loved the woman, she spurned his love, he died, then she died, and then they were condemned to play out the above-mentioned slasher-horror movie scene over and over again for as many years as the number of months that his love was unrequited. Bummer.

Anyhow, as the young lady’s body recomposes, she returns to living-deadness and runs off once again, chased by the knight and his hounds, and Nastagio has an “Aha!” moment.

One week later….

Nastagio is throwing yet another fancy lunch for Bianca Traversari, her family and his, and all his pals… in the very same clearing in the woods. You know where this going… Sure enough, half-way through lunch, in rushes the cursed once-dead-now-alive-soon-to-be-dead-again lady, the hounds, the knight… and the whole scene plays out in front of all the guests.

Needless to say again, they are all horrified too. They bounce to their feet, knock over all the food, and after sir knight slaughters his zombified non-girlfriend for the umpteenth time, he regales all present with his sob story, while waiting for her body to recompose for the next round…


End of the story? Bianca sees the evil of her ways, repents (she figures better to be with Nastagio than having to go through that for half of eternity), and agrees to marry Nastagio after all. The final wood panel is of their wedding day feast… a la happily ever after, or so this story goes as written by Boccaccio in his Decamerone.

(This panel is in Palazzo Pucci, Florence.)


Moral of the story? You mean besides nightmarish injustice, serial symbolic rape as punishment, coercive marriage, murder, etc.? I wouldn’t know. But these four panels by Botticelli were a wedding gift to Giannozzo Pucci and Lucrezia Bini from Lorenzo “il Magnifico” de’ Medici.

Soooo… was it a “Haha, funny” kind of wedding gift? Or was it more of a “Deep & Meaningful Life Lesson, this’ll do ya good” gift? Not sure about you, but I would have loved to have been present to see Giannozzo and Lucrezia’s reactions to it.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

28 Responses to “Wedding gift!?”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    The deep lesson and also the value of the art itself would prohibit the tossing of the art. Soooo…the couple were left to contemplate just what Lorenzo was trying to say or imply. Beware the Medici, a not always upright group! (incidentally one of our family names)

  2. “Eviscerate” ? ! ? !

    you sure that’s the correct word, GB ?

  3. Michelle Ann Bini Stenberg

    I love reading all of your posts!! This one was particularly interesting and the ending was delightful as my maiden name is Bini!!

  4. Marilyn Canna

    Wow, Boccaccio by way of Botticelli. But why did he save an amazingly effective use of perspective for the wedding banquet only? Maybe to indicate that the previous panels were ‘here’s the lesson to learn’ and the wedding feast panel is the ‘reality meant to be.’ Whatever — this might be Renaissance regifting on a major, Medici scale!

  5. Joy Huffines

    Wow, that Lorenzo was no slouch when it came to gifting! No toasters and blenders for him. Wonderful story……Botticelli is my all time favorite. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us.

  6. Linda Boccia

    And the moral is?????……you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Or is it don’t waste your resources on ingrates by trying to impress them with money!

  7. Ann Moro

    A bit gruesome, but it got the job done getting the lovers together

  8. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    signore mott, disembowel,remove the guts from,filet
    yes eviscerate ,why not?!

  9. Roberto Limone

    This is the grammar Nazi calling. Note the photo description:

    Today entry should read: “. . .the first of these three images
    is . . . ”

    “First” is the subject of the sentence; “images” is the object of
    the preposition of. It modifies “first”.

    • Caroline

      But “the first *three* of these four panels *are*…” is perfectly correct.

  10. brendamarinovich

    You tell us what’s out there in the most fun way!! So interesting and “tongue in cheek”. Now I want to see those paintings and before your post I didn’t even know they existed!! You’d be a great teacher! Thanks so much.

  11. Dan Johnson

    Wow! Classic Comics of the Renaissance! What a great story from a great story teller! Magnifico!

    • GB

      Hehe.. bravo Dan, great idea.. “classic comics of the renaissance”.. love it!

  12. Great story and well told indeed, bringing life to the Botticelli art. Bravo GB.

    I think our grammar Nazi, Roberto, might have made a fatal error in verbal juxtaposition. If you were referring to GB’s caption below the first panel, which reads, “…the first three of these four wooden panels are at the Prado in Madrid,” then GB’s grammar is correct because “three [panels]” is the subject. If GB had written it the way you wrote it, “…the first of these three images…,” then you would be correct.

  13. Cathy Vignale

    Personally, I see these characters as archetypes alla Jung but
    it would take a bit more studying to interpret.
    There is another story in the Decameron which is similar to this where the woman is imprisoned and then made to burn in the sun!!!

    • GB

      Totally agree… a Jungian scholar would have a field day with this nutty story!

  14. Debra Duckman

    What a delightful entry !! I have enjoyed every single word.
    Italian Notebook is always giving me reasons to return.

  15. GB

    Hi everyone, so glad you enjoyed this note! I’ve noticed that the amount of laughing/smiling I do while I write notes is directly proportional to the responses/feedback I get about them from you all. IOWs, we’ve got the same sense of humor!
    This one in particular wrote itself really… I mean with a story like that?! Ahh, to hang out with Boccaccio for an afternoon.. that guy must have been a hoot!

  16. Cathy Vignale

    I agree and, according to a TV series Leonardo’s Demons, Florence was a veritable hoot indeed! Has anyone watched that?
    A young Leonardo da Vinci is the hero of his own adventure series. Mamma mia!

  17. Diana

    GB do you happen to know whether these panels were on a wedding chest? And their dimensions? It would be marvellous to see them all together again. Thanks, I loved this. Let’s have more art history lessons from you.

    • GB

      Hi Diana, I agree that it would be great to see them all together.. hopefully the Prado museum and the Pucci heirs might one day agree to have them exhibited.
      As for their use… seems they might have been made for a “cassone”, a decorated chest, possibly given in that form, but they were definitely then mounted in a “spalliera”, a display/wooden wall panelling in one of the gran saloni of the palazzo.


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