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Throughout his life Rossetti was fascinated by stories of tragic lovers and illicit love. Here he illustrates the story of Francesca and her brother-in-law Paolo, from Inferno by the medieval poet Dante. They are condemned to Hell for adultery, although Dante has sympathy for their true love and the cruelty of their death.

On the left, Francesca and Paolo embrace. In the centre, Dante and Virgil look with concern to the right, where the lovers, murdered by Francesca's husband, drift through hell in each other's arms. Quotations from the text are inscribed around the edge of the composition.

August 2004