The Nastagio scene derives from a tale in Boccaccio’s Decameron (ca. 1349–53). In the story, Nastagio, a nobleman, has been spurned by the woman he wants to marry, Messer Paolo Traversari’s daughter. One day, he wanders into a pine forest where he witnesses the violent scene Botticelli depicted. Nastagio discovers that the pair have a story parallel to his own. During her lifetime, the gutted woman rejected the knight, named Guido, who subsequently committed suicide. As a kind of divine punishment, they are bound to each other in a traumatic cycle: Every Friday, Guido chases after her, rips out her heart, and throws it to his dogs.
After witnessing this violence, Nastagio invites Traversari’s family to the next show. Botticelli’s third Nastagio panel depicts this as an uncomfortable brunch. Behind tables laid with white cloths, a stunned group of Traversaris watch as the knight once again raises a sword against the woman who rejected him. Such a terrifying scene convinces Traversari’s daughter that she should marry Nastagio out of fear that the same horror will otherwise befall her. The fourth panel depicts the couple’s wedding feast.