Exhibitions: About Time: 700 Years of European Painting

Davide Ghirlandaio: Scene from "Nastagia degli Onesti"

Davide di Tommaso Bigordi, called Davide Ghirlandaio (Italian, Florentine, 1452–1525). Scene from the Tale "Nastagio degli Onesti" in Boccaccio's Decameron, after 1483. Tempera on wood panel. Brooklyn Museum, Augustus Healy Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 25.95

Ghirlandaio depicts the first half of the story of Nastagio degli Onesti, which Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) tells in his Decameron. Nastagio, spurned in love by a lady from an aristocratic family, broods upon his fate in the woods outside Ravenna, where he spies a horrifying scene: a mounted knight and his hounds pursue a naked woman, ultimately capturing her and tearing out her heart. The knight then explains that they are forced to enact this scene weekly as punishment for his suicide—precipitated by her rejection. Ghirlandaio unravels this tale episodically from left to right, by repeating the figure of Nastagio, with his bright, easily identifiable costume, and rhythmically spacing Ravenna's distinctive pines as well as the peaks and valleys of the distant mountains.