Dante’s autobiographical ‘Vita Nuova’ (new life) recounts the progress of his intense but mystical love for Beatrice Portinari. On one occasion due to a misunderstanding Beatrice refused to acknowledge the great Italian medieval poet when they met by chance in the street. In this painting Beatrice, in the centre of the group of three women, looks away from Dante. The artist has drawn a sharp distinction in character, dress and attitude between the extrovert Monna Vanna, Beatrice’s friend on her right, and Beatrice herself, who looks intently forward. Indeed Holiday has reduced this fateful anti-climax in Dante’s great other worldly love story to the level of a social anecdote. We can admire the artist’s rendering of the costumes, buildings and streets of 13th-century Florence, but of the shattering denial which reduced Dante to despair, we feel nothing. The pigeons were painted by J T Nettleship.