Multimedia Art Productions

Francesco Petrarca Avignon April 6th 1327 - 1330 en 1337 - 1340
Laura de Noves Avignon 1310 - 1348
Simone Martini Avignon 1339 - 1344


Simone Martini
(c.1284 – 1344) was an Italian painter born in Siena. Martini's brother-in-law was the artist Lippo Memmi.
Francis Petrarch became a friend of Simone's while in Avignon, and two of Petrarch's sonnets (
Canzoniere 96 and 130) make reference to a portrait of Laura de Noves that Simone supposedly painted for the poet (according to Vasari).
Simone Martini
first met Petrarch soon after arriving in Avignon to contribute to the decoration of the new papal palace in early 1336. The two men quickly struck up a friendly rapport. Only a few months later – in late summer or early autumn – Petrarch penned two sonnets suggesting that he had already commissioned Simone to paint a portrait of his beloved Laura. Although no trace of this work – if it existed – has survived, Petrarch was fulsome in his praise of Simone’s artistry. Even if Polyclitus and all those who were famous in his art were to have looked for a thousand years, Petrarch claimed in Canz. 77, they would not have seen the smallest part of Laura’s beauty. Indeed, Simone must have been in Paradise when he captured her likeness, Petrarch opined, for such a work could not be imagined here on earth, where the body is a veil to the soul, but only in Heaven. So skilful and lifelike was his portrait, in fact, that it actually intensified the pain of Petrarch’s unrequited love. His only regret was that the portrait remained inanimate. If only it had been given voice and intellect along with form, Petrarch explained in Canz. 78, he might have been relieved of many sighs. Though Laura’s image seemed humble and appeared to promise peace, even appearing to listen kindly when Petrarch spoke, it could not reply to his words. Truly, then, Pygmalion was happier, for at least his statue of Galatea came to life.
For many Renaissance commentators, Petrarch’s encomium of Simone’s artistry appeared to have been designed to redound to Laura’s credit. If the portrait had been taken from life – as was generally assumed – Petrarch could hardly have admired Simone’s capacity to capture Laura’s divine countenance in carte without also celebrating the beauty of Laura’s body and soul in reality. As Francesco Filelfo observed in the mid-1440s, the two went hand-in-hand. It was, he argued, Petrarch’s intention to praise ‘together with the beauty of the Lady Laura the talent and art of Master Simon of Siena, the most renowned painter of the age, who had depicted [Laura] from life, the said lady being visible to Master Francesco in Avignon.’

Simone Martini (1284-1344) painted the frontispiece to Virgile with various scenes around 1336, while both lived in Avignon. In friendship Petrarch also references Simone Martini in his Sonnet 77. This most famous painting, Petrarch’s Virgil frontispiece, includes the imagined figure of Virgil himself writing: alma poetas, one of Petrarch’s dear poets in Petrarch’s two couplets.

Simone_Martini_-_Frontispice_du_Virgile