Paolo and Francesca

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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Paolo and Francesca, 1819
By REID GUEMMER

Paolo and Francesca: lovers condemned to eternal damnation for their adultery. Told by Dante, Francesca was married to Gianciotto, brother of Paolo, for supposed political reasons. After finding Paolo sneaking out of Francesca’s window, Gianciotto attempts to stab him. Francesca throws herself in front of Gianciotto’s sword, killing her. Gianciotto then successfully kills Paolo as well.

The French Revolution brought a collection of new and daring ideals. The public began rejecting the past oppression and current demands of their rulers. Although Ingres held an odd desire to paint people such as Napoleon, even before portraits of him were commissioned. As his career continued he began experimenting with new techniques, ones that critics were not accepting of. The same drive that pushed Ingres to paint portraits of Napoleon might’ve been present in his decision to create Paolo and Francesca. Stylistically, the painting is nothing new. Although the couple displays affection towards one another despite both already being wed. The concept of adultery may not be a good one, but during the next hundred and fifty years it becomes a new normal, as do many of the ideas originating from the French Revolution.

The color scheme in which Paolo is dressed, all bright, vibrant colors represent passion. While the curtain, blood red, represents death. Francesca, who sacrifices herself to protect Paolo wears a lighter shade of red while the killer wears a much darker shade. The color is inescapable.

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