Portrait of Beatrice
Dante, D. G. Rossetti, and the Imaginary Lady
258 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 6 b&w illustrations
Hardcover | 9780268103972 | March 2019
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268103996 | March 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268104009 | March 2019
The Portrait of Beatrice examines both Dante's and D. G. Rossetti's intellectual experiences in the light of a common concern about visuality. Both render, in different times and contexts, something that resists clear representation, be it the divine beauty of the angel-women or the depiction of the painter's own interiority in a secularized age. By analyzing Dante's Vita Nova alongside Rossetti's Hand and Soul and St. Agnes of Intercession, which inaugurates the Victorian genre of 'imaginary portrait' tales, this book examines how Dante and Rossetti explore the tension between word and image by creating 'imaginary portraits.' The imaginary portrait—Dante's sketched angel appearing in the Vita Nova or the paintings evoked in Rossetti's narratives—is not (only) a non-existent artwork: it is an artwork whose existence lies elsewhere, in the words alluding to its inexpressible quality. At the same time, thinking of Beatrice as an 'imaginary Lady' enables us to move beyond the debate about her actual existence. Rather, it allows us to focus on her reality as a miracle made into flesh, which language seeks incessantly to grasp. Thus, the intergenerational dialogue between Dante and Rossetti—and between thirteenth and nineteenth centuries, literature and painting, Italy and England—takes place between different media, oscillating between representation and denial, mimesis and difference, concealment and performance. From medieval Florence to Victorian London, Beatrice's 'imaginary portrait' touches upon the intertwinement of desire, poetry, and art-making in Western culture.
Fabio Camilletti is reader at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick. He is the author of a number of books, including Leopardi's Nymphs: Grace, Melancholy, and the Uncanny.
"This monograph is interdisciplinary in character, being primarily a study of the imaginary image of Beatrice and other muse/soul figures in the nineteenth-century poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti's work and the impossibility of such representation. This subtle, rich, and impressive study makes a substantial and original contribution to Rossetti studies." —Alison Milbank, University of Nottingham
"Elegantly written, carefully researched, and beautifully erudite, The Portrait of Beatrice offers an original and compelling interpretation of Dante’s Vita Nova and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s post-enlightenment reappropriations through the concept of metamorphosis. Combining a profound knowledge of Dante’s and Rossetti’s oeuvre with psychoanalysis and a critical line of thought that from Warburg arrives at Agamben and Didi-Huberman, Camilletti challenges the distinction between original and copy and between image and writing and not only offers unexpected and thought-provoking analyses but also helps the readers to reconsider their methodological assumptions and to embrace an intellectual journey into uncharted territories that is both unsettling and tremendously rewarding." —Manuele Gragnolati, Sorbonne Université and ICI Berlin
"Fabio Camilletti takes a wholly original approach to understanding these works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He relies on literary theory, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory, but also touches on art historical scholarship. His approach to understanding Rossetti, who was both a poet and an artist, is unique and makes for fascinating reading." —Aida Audeh, Hamline University