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.