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Drama and Desire: “Paolo and Francesca” by Gaetano Previati

June 29th, 2010

Gaetano Previati’s Paolo and Francesca is on display for a limited time at the AGO as part of the exhibition Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre.

Paolo and Francesca, Gaetano Previati

Gaetano Previati, Paolo and Francesca, oil on canvas, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.

Looks a bit like a soap opera? This painting depicts an episode from a story originally set in medieval Italy. It tells of the brave but deformed aristocrat Giovanni who sends his handsome younger brother Paolo to propose to the maiden Francesca on his behalf. She falls in love with Paolo, but soon marries Giovanni who is in disguise. Francesca only discovers the trick after her wedding night. She and Paolo become lovers. They are surprised by Giovanni who accidentally kills Francesca as she rushes to protect Paolo. Giovanni also murders Paolo.