The unobtainable, tragic, yet hope-filled figure of Beatrice dominates the writing of Florentine poet Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 –1321). She first appears in the Vita Nuova, a collection of poems written after Beatrice’s early death, which celebrates her memory and the poet’s distant and near spiritual adoration of her. In the Divine Comedy, she replaces Dante’s pagan guide Virgil, leading him through Paradise to the Emyprean, or dwelling place of God.
Beatrice enjoyed a renewed importance across Europe in the nineteenth century as a symbol of courtly love and feminine purity. Beloved of the Romantic Movement and Pre-Raphaelites, in Italy she served to tie the newly unified country to the origins of its language, joining Petrarch’s Laura as an emblem of the nation itself. Born in Dante’s native Tuscany, Attilio Fagioli worked in both marble and bronze, and is best known for his Fountain to Pinocchio in Corso Indipendenza, Milan.