Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Paolo and Francesca, a graphite drawing

England, around AD 1855

The doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca from Dante's Divine Comedy

The tragic lovers Paolo and Francesca appear in the Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri's (1265-1321) masterwork La Divinia Commedia (The Divine Comedy). Francesca had been engaged to the deformed Giancotto Malatesta but fell in love with his younger brother Paolo as they read together. Giancotto surprised them one day and stabbed them both to death and the pair were condemned to exist in a whirlwind in the second circle of hell. Rossetti's father had written a commentary on Dante Alighieri's poems and even named his son after him.

This drawing is a study for the left-hand compartment of a three-part watercolour now in the Tate Gallery, London. The other scenes show Dante and his guide the classical author, Virgil, and the doomed lovers floating in hell. It was sold in 1855 to the art critic John Ruskin for 35 guineas. Rossetti rushed to Paris with the payment in order to help his model, later wife, Elizabeth Siddal, who was stranded in Paris with no money.

Find in the collection online

More information


L. Parris (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites (London, Tate, 1984)

J.A Gere, Pre-Raphaelite drawings in the (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 226.000 mm
Width: 167.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1981-11-7-17



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore