Beatrice dei Bardi
Inspiration of Dante’s Life
1266 – 1290 B.C.
Beatrice, the daughter of a Florentine noble, Folco Portinari, and wife of Simone dei Bardi – the angelic woman who was the heroine and inspirer of Dante’s Vita Nuova, of his Divina Commedia, and of the great poet’s whole life. In his own words,
“already nine times after my birth the heaven of light had returned as it were to the same point, when there appeared to my eyes the glorious lady of my mind. Her dress on that day was of a most noble color, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled and adorned in such a sort as best suited her tender age. At that moment I saw most truly that the spirit of life which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith.”
In the Vita Nuova is written the story of his passion from its commencement to within a year after the lady’s death. He saw Beatrice only once or twice, and she probably knew little of him. But the worship of her lover was stronger for the remoteness of its subject. The last chapter of the Vita Nuova relates how, after the lapse of a year,
“it was given me to behold a wonderful vision, wherein I saw things which determined me to say nothing further of this blessed one until such time as I could discourse more worthily concerning her. And to this end I labor all I can, as she in truth knoweth. Therefore if it be His pleasure through whom is the life continue with me a few years, it is my hope that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not before been written of any woman. After the which may it seem good unto Him that my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of its lady, to wit, that of blessed Beatrice who, now gloriously gazes on the countenance of Him who is the master of grace.”
On the 9th of June, 1290, aged twenty-four, died Beatrice, whose mortal love had guided Dante for thirteen years, and whose immortal spirit purified his later life, and revealed to him the mysteries of Paradise.
The identity of Beatrice and her allegorical significance in the Divina Commedia have been made the subject of an extensive literature.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.