Paolo y Francesca (1845/1846) by Jean Auguste Dominique IngresMuseo Soumaya.Fundación Carlos Slim
A young man approaches a girl to kiss her cheek. She retracts with delighted shyness. Don’t you find it heartwarming? The two figures appear pure but…they’re not! Absurd as it might seem, we are witnessing a forbidden passion, coming from the circles of Dante's Inferno.
The book Francesca is dropping is a source of both bliss and misfortune: its pages tell the love story between Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, Arthur’s spouse. In Dante’s interpretation, this reading inspires the young couple leading them to adultery and lust!
In fact, the girl in this painting is the unhappy wife of the misshapen Gianciotto, her lover’s brother. Have you noticed him? He’s there, hidden in the shadow, holding a sword!
The perfect outline, the oblique profiles of the characters, the attenuation of volume and relief of the figures in favor of the contours make you think of a Renaissance painting, of Raphael…
Yet, this plaque tells us that the painter is from the 19th century.
It’s Ingres, a neoclassical painter with a romantic soul.
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