Other than the
drawing that DGR exhibited in late 1852, this
watercolour is the only finished version of the work that DGR had intended to complete in oil.
The work was to have been part of a triptych, with the other two panels showing Dante as a
Florentine magistrate sentencing Cavalcanti to exile, and Dante at the court of Can Grande
della Scala. Sketches toward the latter survive as
Dante at Verona
Julian Treuherz explicates the implicit argument in the picture thus: “just as
Cimabue's fame was eclipsed by Giotto's, so Guinizelli's was by Cavalcanti's, and by
implication Dante's outshines both: in the painting he therefore holds a pomegranate, symbol
of immortality. Rossetti may also have had in mind his own role in reviving the fame of his
artistic forebears through his paintings and his translations of Italian poetry”
Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters28); and, one might well add, through his own original writings as well.