The Banquet in the Pine Forest

7:00 AM

Sandro Botticelli, The Banquet in the Pine Forest, 1483
by CHARNAI ANDERSON

Initially, I fell in love with the openness and taste of warmth I get from this painting. But, similar to when you are finding a book or a perhaps a mate, we must not judge this painting by what appeals to the eye, rather we must explore the inner beauty. One must be informed that this painting does not stand alone, it is a part of a series called, The Story of Nastagio degli OnestiThe four paintings show four scenes from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. The four panels of this story are all centrally located around the theme of love, but have many different themes at work, such as degradation of women, which is certainly present within this story.

Nastagio is the man in the red pants standing near the woman, who is not only being attacked by vicious dogs, but also chased by a knight on a horse with a drawn sword. This one painting could unquestionably stand alone, but it does not. It's the the third of four panels. In the first panel Nastagio is seen taking a stroll in despair because the lady he loves rejected him and won't marry him. On his stroll he notices a naked woman being pursued by dogs and also the man on his horse.  He picks up a branch to attempt to help or possibly save the woman. In the second panel we see that the woman has fallen in the forefront, but you can see the knight cutting open her back and in the corner you can see the dogs feasting on what would be her guts, most likely her heart. Nastagio, still at the scene, is very confused as to why the knight feels the need to torture this damsel. The knight informs him that he was deeply in love with this woman, and she spitefully rejected and ignored him. Fed up with rejection, the knight used the same sword to commit suicide. Soon after the woman died, too, and as punishment for her enjoyment in his suffering and his sin of suicide they both must repeat this act periodically. Where he chases her, catches her, cuts out her heart, and feeds it to the hounds. The usual. This is shown in the background of panel two.

When Nastagio learns the reasoning behind the knight's actions he gets an idea. Nastagio decides to invite a lady who has rejected him and her family to a picnic in the forest where this very deed occurs. As you can see here in this painting the woman is once again being pursued by demented hounds followed by the knight. The audience now frozen, forks down, waits for an explanation. The knight then describes his story to the family members, and next thing you know the lady (I believe she is the one dressed in white at the head of the table) Nastagio wants is crawling into his arms assuring him that of course she'll marry him for she could not possibly be given and within such fate. The fourth panel is the wedding. 


Though the removal of the heart in panel two is intriguing and tempting, I chose this painting because although it is the third panel it sort of wraps everything up. It is also the most positive - considering Nastagio gets the lady. Sadly this also makes me think of how women have, are and always will be seen as possessions. I speak from a societal standpoint not from a literal one. I even feel as if the fact that the damsel is nude is to make her lesser than all else around her. It's as if women don't have the right to say no if a male shall pursue her. Although progress has been made from 1483 to now. In a way it hasn't. I mean obviously Mrs. Evil Damsel Lady is out of dress code, and she is singled out because of that. Why couldn't she be clothed or why couldn't some of the others have been unclothed? Perhaps like Adam and Eve her nakedness is a form of punishment. I just find this series of paintings quite interesting because Bottecelli was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent to paint them as a wedding gift for his godson.


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