The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti
The story of Nastagio was originally depicted in a series of four paintings completed in 1483 by Sandro Botticelli. The paintings were commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent to mark the occasion of the wedding of his godson. Although much of the art of Renaissance Italy revolved around Christian and classical themes, at times artists did paint scenes from contemporary literature for their wealthy patrons. Such was the case with The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti. The paintings depict four scenes from a contemporary novella called The Decameron, written by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio.
The story begins as Nastagio is walking through the forest in despair because the woman whom he wishes to marry has refused him. During his walk, he witnesses a knight leading his hounds in the chase of a naked woman. The first panel, entitled The Encounter with the Damned in the Pine Forest, shows Nastagio attempting to defend the woman with a tree branch as one of the hounds leaps at her. The knight, on horseback, brandishes his sword as he arrives at the scene.
Powerless to help the woman, Nastagio watches in horror as the knight captures the woman, tears out her heart and her entrails and feeds them to his dogs! The knight then begins the same chase of the same woman again. Nastagio learns that the woman had refused to marry the knight and that this series of events will take place eternally as a punishment for both of them -- the knight’s suicide and the woman’s rejection. The second panel entitled The Infernal Hunt shows Nastagio recoiling with revulsion as he watches the knight assail the woman with his sword. In the background, we see the chase taking place again.
Clever as he is, Nastagio uses what he has seen to his advantage. He invites a group of guests, including the lady who has rejected him and her family, to the forest to view the perpetual chase and its horrific results. Once she understands the possible consequences of her own actions, the lady agrees to marry Nastagio.
About F. Scott Hess
F. Scott Hess has been described as a “New Old Master”. His narrative portraiture blends realistic scenes of everyday life with symbolic and allegorical events, humor, eroticism, and voyeurism. He begins with drawings and careful diagramming on his canvases before adding traditional oil paint or egg tempera. Hess’s works are defined by his strong brushwork, careful attention to the luminosity of flesh, and ability to capture ethereal light. Some of his paintings are reimaginings of the works of canonical masters, such as Diego Velázquez and Jean-Antoine Watteau. Recently he has begun to examine the new possibilities that technology has opened up for his art-making practice. “Over the summer of 2013 I focused on three paintings where my subject matter derived from screwed-up iPhone panorama photographs,” he explains. “The way the panorama mode stitches together a scene is akin to the way human vision actually works. Movement engages the viewer at a preconscious level, eliciting an empathetic response before language can intercede.”
American, b. 1955, Baltimore, Maryland, based in Los Angeles, California