- Museum number
Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, study for the left compartment of the picture illustrating Canto V of Dante's, 'Inferno'; the couple in the act of kissing sit before a circular window, an open book lies on the man's knees, about to fall to the ground. 1855(?)
- Production date
- 1855 (?)
Height: 226 millimetres
Width: 167 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The exhibition and owner labels from the back of the frame have been removed and are now in the dossier.
For literature and exhibitions before 1971, see Surtees 75A; for a discussion of the subject, the origins of the design and other versions, see the entry on the version in the Cecil Higgins AG in the 1989-90 Newcastle, Laing AG exh. 'Pre-Raphaelites, Painters and Patrons in the North East', J Vickers ed., no 93; see also 1984 Tate, Pre-Raphaelite exh, p.102.
The following is the entry on this drawing from J. A. Gere, 'Pre-Raphaelite Drawings in the British Museum', 1994, no. 11
The drawing is a study for the left-hand compartment of the tripartite watercolour in the Tate Gallery (S 75), the differences being in the position of Paolo's legs and that there the book is larger and resting securely on his and Francesca's knees. On the watercolour are inscribed the lines from the passage in Canto 5 of the 'Inferno' in which Dante describes his encounter with the guilty lovers Paolo and Francesca da Rimini:
"... O lasso,
quanti dolci pensier, quanto disio
meno costoro al doloroso passo!"
Rossetti had "been brought up on" Dante, after whom he was named and on whom his father, Gabriele Rossetti, had written a learned commentary. This well-known passage, one of the most sensuous, and most beautiful, in the 'Divina Commedia', clearly made a particular appeal to him.
The right-hand compartment of the watercolour shows the lovers floating in the flames of hell-fire, and the narrower one in the centre, the figures of Dante and Virgil. It is not dated, but Rossetti is recorded as having painted it in a week in October or November 1855 after hearing that Miss Siddal was stranded penniless in Paris. He sold the drawing to Ruskin for 35 guineas and hurried to Paris with the money.
Rossetti had long been thinking of treating the subject in this way, for in 'The Pre-Raphaelite Journal' on 19 November 1849 W.M.Rossetti recorded that "Gabriel. . . intends that the picture shall be in three compartments. In the middle, Paolo and Francesca kissing, on the left Dante and Virgil in the second circle; on the right the spirits blowing to and fro".
It is significant that Munro should have owned three other drawings by Rossetti of the embrace of Paolo and Francesca (S 75B, C and E), one of which is in the pre-Pre-Raphaelite style of about 1846-8 inspired by the Faust lithographs of Delacroix. A sheet of four sketches in pen and wash had belonged to W.M.Rossetti and is now in the collection of Mr John Baskett (S 75D). In the Great Exhibition of 1851 Munro exhibited a plaster model of the group which attracted the attention of Mr Gladstone, a life-long lover of Dante. He commissioned the half-life-size version in marble, signed and dated 1852, which the Birmingham Art Gallery acquired in 1963 (see 'Burlington Magazine', cv (1963), p. 509). Comparison with Rossetti's drawings (especially the central sketch on S 75D) leaves no doubt that this was the source of Munro's composition.
Munro gave a cast of the model to Rossetti, who refers to it in a letter of 8 January 1853 to Madox Brown; it was lot 223 in the sale of the contents of no. 16 Cheyne Walk on 5 July 1882.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
For exhibitions pre 1971, see Surtees 75A
1973 London, Royal Academy, 'Rossetti; Painter and Poet', no.99
1994-5 Sept-Jan, BM, Pre-Raphaelite Drawings, no.11
1990 April-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D (no cat.)
2007 Aug-Nov, Grasmere, Dove Cottage, 'Dante Rediscovered'
2010 Feb-June, Ravenna, Museo d'Arte, Pre-Raphaelites and Italy
2010 Sep-Dec, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Pre-Raphaelites and Italy
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Inferno
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Given by the artist to Alexander Munro and thence by descent. Bought in at Christie's 16.x.1981 and purchased by the BM.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number