Ilaria del Carretto, Lucca’s sleeping beauty

Monumento funebre di Ilaria del Carretto, Jacopo della Quercia, 1406-1408, Duomo di Lucca - Funerary monument

The magnificent marble statue of Ilaria del Carretto, made by Jacopo della Quercia between 1406 and 1408 and currently in Lucca’s Duomo, inspired a number of poets. Thus, over the centuries many lyrics were dedicated to the young Ligurian noblewoman, who died of childbirth at the young age of twenty-six, in 1405.

Ilaria was married to Lucca’s lord Paolo Guinigi in 1403, and bore him two children. She now sleeps on the lid of her “beautiful sepulcher”, as Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote after seeing the work Guinigi had entrusted to Della Quercia after his wife’s premature death (in truth, Ilaria’s remains are not kept here but in the Chapel at Villa Guinigi, currently headquarters of the National Museum of the same name).

“Lovers happily stroll / in the September air, their gestures / accompany the shadow of words / you know…”: these verses by Nobel prize Salvatore Quasimodo fit well the custom by which brides and fiancées used to caress Ilaria’s face on her memorial, according to the legendary tradition that it would protect them from complications while giving birth. There were also young ladies waiting to find a husband who kissed her nose, because “girls who do it get married soon”.

“Inside the cloistered transept / as if inside an aquarium, resigned marble for / the eyelids, and the chest / where she joins her hands in a calm / distance…”: even Pier Paolo Pasolini remembered Lucca’s sleeping beauty in his works.

Our gallery is dedicated to this beautiful sculpture, with a small dog at her feet that some say represents marital fidelity.

April 25, 2016

Ilaria del Carretto, Lucca’s sleeping beauty

Lucca Cathedral Museum and Archaeological Complex
Piazza Antelminelli
+39 0583 490530