Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet, drowned in 1822 when his yacht was wrecked in a storm in the Gulf of Spezzia, Italy. His body was cremated and his remains later buried at the Protestant cemetery in Rome. Fournier’s painting shows the funeral pyre surrounded by three of the dead poet’s closest friends. From left to right, they are the author and adventurer, Trelawney, Leigh Hunt and Shelley’s fellow-poet, Lord Byron. In Trelawney’s own account of the event, 'Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron', he described the hot August day on which the funeral took place. Fournier chose to ignore this aspect of the description, depicting the weather conditions as grey and cold in order to accentuate the sombre and dramatic mood of the piece.