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Paolo and Francesca

European Art

Paolo and Francesca is one of only two direct references in The Gates of Hell to the “Inferno” portion of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dante encounters the couple in the second circle of Hell, where carnal sinners are punished. There, the condemned and slain pair, whose love was unconsummated, are together forever, constantly reminded of their first kiss but unable to satisfy their most passionate desires. Francesca confesses to Dante that there is “no greater grief than to recall a bygone happiness.” Rodin accentuated their eternal frustration by inserting a mass between their writhing bodies.

For Paolo’s yearning and tender face, Rodin reused his small Head of Sorrow (seen nearby).
MEDIUM Bronze
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES before 1886, cast 1981
    DIMENSIONS 11 3/4 x 23 1/4 x 10 5/8 in. (29.8 x 59.1 x 27.0 cm)
    MARKINGS On base, below female figure's buttocks: ".Georges Rudier./.Fondeur. Paris." On shelf supporting male figure's extended foot: "© by Musée Rodin 1981"
    SIGNATURE Behind male figure: "A. Rodin No 4"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.1
    EDITION Edition: 4/12
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation
    RECORD COMPLETENESS
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