Beatrice by Francesco Messina

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)