About this artwork

Dyce acknowledged this as one of the finest paintings he produced in Edinburgh. Its subject was inspired by the ill-fated lovers described by Dante in his epic poem 'The Inferno'. Francesca, married to an elderly and deformed husband Gianciotto, read to his younger brother Paolo and they fell in love. Gianciotto surprised the lovers and murdered them. He was originally included in Dyce's composition. A hint of the tragic outcome is still suggested dramatically by the presence of Gianciotto's disembodied hand at the left, a fortuitous result of the canvas trimmed to remove damage in 1882.

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William Dyce

William Dyce

Dyce specialised chiefly in religious and medieval subjects. His many interests included medicine, geology and art education. Born in Aberdeen, he trained briefly in London before travelling to Italy. The Nazarenes, a group of German painters working in Rome who were inspired by the character of early Italian painting, influenced Dyce greatly. He developed considerable expertise in fresco painting and was consulted over the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament at Westminster. In London he was the first Superintendent of the Government School of Design, following a successful period in Edinburgh (1832-1837) as a portrait painter and teacher at the Trustees' Academy.