Sunday, 13 December 2020

Sunday 13th December - Paolo and Francesca

If ever there were a couple who personify the spirit of Snogvent then it has to be doomed lovers Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini.  Much art has been dedicated to them, often kissing because that's what got them in trouble but also what got them a starring role in Volume I of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. The Victorian's loved a bit of P&F because you get to have the vicarious enjoyment of an affair, before seeing them cast into Hell for all eternity as is only right and proper (apparently). Down with that sort of thing. Anyway, it all starts innocently enough...

Paolo and Francesca (1851-2) Alexander Munro

Paolo obviously shares my attraction to people holding books.  So, the story is that Francesca's father and Paolo's father were enemies and decided to bring the families together by marrying their children.  The Capulets and Montagues were never that proactive.  Mind you, before we all get comfortable with their diplomatic thought, the Dads agree to marry off lovely Francesca to Giovanni Malatesta, who was brave but in some way disabled.  Now, back in the 'good old days' apparently that was excuse enough to go off and snog someone else, and get quite rightly stabbed for not seeing beyond the disability, but I suspect I'm going off message. Also, don't drag your children into the mess of your own making because it only creates more mess. Anyway, while in Rimini to meet her differently-able bridegroom, Francesca falls in love with his brother and they have an affair. Cue the first load of snogging...

Paolo and Francesca (1894) Frank Dicksee

Paolo and Francesca (1902) Christopher Williams

Paolo and Francesca (1870) Amos Cassioli

Common in all these pictures is that Francesca is reading and discards her book when a splendid chap in tights makes a move on her.  I don't mean to kill the romance but some of those books look absolutely gorgeous, illuminated manuscripts and everything, and so he would need to be a pretty awesome kisser in order to get me to just lob that on the floor.  Plus you have to consider the rarity and importance of books in the 13th century, so her careless treatment of them does not impress me.  Sorry, I was going off message again.  Love conquers all, blah blah, she's really buggering up the spine in the Cassioli's painting, would it have killed her to put it down safely? No, unlike snogging your husband's brother, which really does get you killed. Anyway, when Giovanni discovers them, he stabs them both, which proves that whatever disability Giovanni had did not affect his eyesight or sword arm...

Paolo and Francesca (1819) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Look, she dropped the book, they were asking for it! Go get 'em, Giovanni!  Anyway, because of the whole book abuse (and infidelity), the result was this...

Paolo and Francesca (c.1887) Gaetano Previati

But that isn't where the story ends, because Dante, a contemporary of the unhappy couple, decided to include them in his Inferno, so their snogging continued into Hell.  Blimey, they really are that couple, aren't they?

Paolo and Francesca (1835) Ary Scheffer

In the first volume of The Divine Comedy, Dante and Virgil meet the unlucky lovers in the second circle of Hell (Ikea at about 2.30pm on a Saturday).  The couple are trapped in an eternal whirlwind, which seems to have blown off all their clothes, because they had been swept away by their passions.  Although I do enjoy the Gilbert and Sullivan punishment-fits-the-crime aspect of it all, being blown about a bit for all eternity doesn't sound like eternal damnation.  I mean there are no flames, no stabby little demons or any of this business...

An Angel Leading a Soul into Hell (15th century) circle of Hieronymus Bosch

Lawks, I only nipped in for some batteries and a cinnamon bun... Anyway, my point is that being blown about a bit seems infinitely preferable to whatever is happening to any of these poor souls.  I don't even want to know what's going on in the left-hand cave. Flipping Nora.  I get that being blown about a bit could be really irritating, but it's hardly torture, but maybe that's it.  Maybe hell is being stuck with your poor decisions for all eternity until they become really, really boring.  Yes, I'm sure it was all exciting to start with, being whisked about without your pants on, but after a few millennia of just going round and round, and never being able to keep your hair out of your face, I bet you'd be hoping for a bit of stabbing just to break up the monotony. So I guess the lesson we should take from today's picture is be careful with your books because the chasm of Hell awaits you if you damage the spine.

Oh, and probably don't kiss your brother in law, because it makes Christmas really awkward.  See you tomorrow...

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