Beatrice by Francesco Messina

(Last Updated On August 2, 2021)

Francesco Messina (1900–1995) was one of the best known Italian sculptors of the 20th century. His most famous works include the monument to Pope Pius XII in the Vatican, the Dying Horse logo of Italian National Television, and this statue, Beatrice. Messina sculpted Beatrice in 1959.

Francesco Messina – Beatrice (1959)

The full size Beatrice stands 57 inches tall, approximately life-size. According to Wikipedia, Beatrice is at South Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I could not find an image of the Beatrice at SMU, but other full size statues are in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; and in Tsurumai Park in Nagoya, Japan. In addition to these, smaller copies of Beatrice are common on art auction sites.

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in State Hermitage Museum, Russia (1959) (1)

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in State Hermitage Museum (1959) (2)

What is it about this statue that makes it so popular throughout the world? There is nothing too exciting about the ordinary standing pose or the calm facial expression. What makes Beatrice special is the beauty of the young model.

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in Nagoya, Japan (1959) (1)

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in Nagoya, Japan (1959) (2)

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in Nagoya, Japan (1959) (3)

Francesco Messina – Beatrice in Nagoya, Japan (1959) (4)

Why did Messina give this work the title Beatrice? My guess is that it is a reference to Dante Alighieri’s muse, believed to be Beatrice Portinari. Dante met Beatrice when he was nine years old and Beatrice was eight or nine. I have seen no evidence to confirm this guess. Another possibility is that Beatrice may be the name of the model who posed for the statue. Perhaps the sources I have read neglect to specify who Beatrice is because it does not matter. The statue is beautiful in its own right, regardless of whom it represents.

When an image search for Beatrice is done, another version of the statue can be found. This version has the same body, but a different hair style and face. I have not found any more information about this alternate version of Beatrice.

Francesco Messina – Alternate Version of Beatrice (1959)

3 thoughts on “Beatrice by Francesco Messina

  1. What impresses me about this statue is the pose, which seems more masculine or gender-neutral, perhaps, than other nudes of young girls. With the arms at the sides and the hip thrust to one side, contrapposto fashion, she looks more like the classical representation of a boy — or the David — than a stereotypical Venus figure. It’s beautiful and quite provocative.

  2. I am not any kind of an expert on sculpture, so I wonder if the statues in Russia and Japan were also sculpted by Messina, or if he arranged to have them manufactured as exact replicas of the original statue.

    • Thanks for the comment. I am also not an expert on sculpture, but if I understand correctly, bronze statues begin with a model of clay or other material. A mold is made from the model. The bronze can then be cast directly in the mold, or plaster can be used to make a secondary model from which more molds can be made. Casting the molten bronze is done at a foundry, usually not by the sculptor himself. It is possible, therefore, to make several copies of a statue from one model.

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