Great Lovers #1

Paolo and Francesca
(13th century)

Francesca da Rimini was the daughter of the Lord of Ravenna, Guido da Polenta, in the second half of the 13th century. She was married off to Giovanni Malatesta, son of the Lord of Rimini to seal the peace between the two families. Because of Giovanni's deformity, Guido was affraid that Francesca would refuse him, so they deceived Francesca by arranging a proxy marriage with Giovanni's handsome brother, Paolo. She was unaware of this until the morning after, and then it was too late. Francesca and Paolo had fallen in love and soon became lovers. It all came to an abrupt end when Giovanni found them out, returnt secretly to Rimini and to Francesca's room. Paolo tried to escape but was caught by his jacket on a piece of metal in the trapdoor. Giovanni ran to kill him, with a rapier in his hand, but Francesca ran between them and caught the blade in her bosom.

The tale of Paolo and Francesca is mentioned in one of my favorite cantos of Dante's Divine Comedy. In Infero, Canto 5, The lovers are placed in the second circle of Dante's inferno, where lustful sinners are being punished.
According to the Divine Comedy, Paolo and Francesca had read the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, were seduced by it and then became lovers. Other famous lovers, like Dido (lover of Aeneas), Cleopatra (lover of Mark Antony and Julius Ceasar), Helen and Paris, Achilles (lover of Polyxena) and Tristan (lover of Isolde), are also mentioned in the same canto.

As soon as the gust curved them near to us,
I raised my voice to them, "O wind-worn sould,
Come speak to us if it is not forbidden."

Just as the doves when homing instinct calls them
To their sweet nest, on steadily lifted wings
Glide through the air, guided by their longing,

So those souls left the covey where Dido lies,
Moving toward us through the malignant air,
So strong was the loving-kindness in my cry.

"O, mortal man, gracious and tenderhearted,
Who through the somber air come to visit
The two of us who stained the earth with blood,

"If the king of the universe were our friend,
we would then pray to him to bring you peace,
Since you show pity for our wretched plight.

Gustave Doré: Paolo and Fransesca da Rimini (19th century)

Anselm Feuerbach: Paolo and Fracesca (19th century)

Gustave Doré: Paolo and Francesca (19th century)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Paolo and Francesca (1819)

Marie-Philippe Coupin de la Couperi: The Tragic Love of Francesca da Rimini (1812)

George Frederic Watts: Paolo and Francesca (1872-84)

Gustave Doré: Paolo Kissing Francesca (1890)

Gaetano Previati: Paolo and Francesca

Louis Rubio: Pablo and Francesca (19th century)

Alexandre Cabanel: The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta (1870)

Ary Scheffer: Fracesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta appraised by Dante and Vergil (1854)

William Dyce: Paolo and Francesca (19th century)

Sir Frank Dicksee: Paolo and Francesca (1894)

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