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Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
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Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)

Paolo and Francesca da Rimini

Gustave Doré (French, 1832-1883)
Paolo and Francesca da Rimini
signed 'G. v. Doré' (lower left)
oil on canvas
110½ x 76½ in. (280.7 x 194.3 cm.)
With The Doré Gallery, London, 1870-92.
U.S. Art Import Company, 1899-1927.
Their sale; Manhattan Storage & Warehouse Co., New York, 9 September 1947, lot 21.
Eugene Leone, New York.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 22 February 1989, lot 121 (sold for $605,000).
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
T. Thoré, Salons de W. Burger, Paris, 1870, I, pp. 381-382.
F.R. Conder, Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures by M. Gustave Doré on view at 35, New Bond Street, London, London, 1883, pp. 56-58, no. 26.
B. Jerrold, Life of Gustave Doré, London, 1891, pp. 241, 261, 263-264 (illustrated).
L. Dézé, Gustave Doré: Bibliographe et Catalogue Complet de l'Oeuvre, Paris, 1931, p. 550.
The New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine, May 18, 1947, p. 7 (illustrated).
Gustave Doré 1832-1883, Musée d'Art Moderne, Strasbourg 1983, pp. 52, 82 and 85.
E. Zafran and al., Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Doré , New York, 2007, pp. 150 and 170.
Paris, Exhibition du Boulevard des Italiens, 1863.
Paris, Salon, 1863, no. 598 (as Francois de Rimini et Paolo).
London, The Doré Gallery, 1870-1892.
New York, Carnegie Music Hall, The Doré Collection, 1892, pp. 41-42.
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Illustrated Catalogue of the Doré Gallery, c. 1894, pp. 24-25.
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Lot Essay

Dante's Inferno recounts the tragedy of the deformed Gian Ciotto Malatesta of Rimini's marriage to the beautiful Francesca, who falls in love with his younger brother, Paolo. The two lovers are surprised by Gian Ciotto who stabs them both to death, thereby condemning them to be eternally swept by the wind in the second circle of hell.

"O loving creature, gracious and benignant,
of what it pleases thee to hear or speak,
That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
While silent is the wind, as it is now.
Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me
Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
That as thos seest, it doth not yet desert me;
Love has conducted us unto one death;
Caina waiteth him who quenches our life."
[Francesca to Dante, Inferno, Canto V]

Paolo and Francesca da Rimini was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1863 and a drawing of the same subject in the Salon of 1861. Doré was greatly attracted to London where in 1868 he founded the Doré Gallery, which afforded him commercial success. At the age of 30, Doré announced his plans to publish illustrations of every literary masterpiece, and his interpretation of Dante's Paolo and Francesca received considerable critical acclaim. The introduction in the Doré Gallery catalogue of 1870 discusses the picture as 'The painting by which M. Doré will take the highest rank, not as regards this exhibition alone, but as far as any untravelled English critic has had an opportunity of forming an opinion, is that of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini' (Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures by Gustave Doré on Exhibition at the Doré Gallery, London, 1874, p. 74). The Doré catalogue also notes some of the press critiques during its exhibition. The Examiner magazine describes "... the wondrous beauty of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini, no words can give any adequate idea. Suffice it to say that, when once seen, the statuesque beauty of the face and figure of Francesca can never be effaced from memory... A more perfect embodiment of female beauty we have never beheld. It is a work of surpassing merit, and justifies the highest eulogium it is in the power of language to bestow." (ibid, p. 17). Bell's Weekly Messenger wrote "The female figure is very touching, with the splendour of beauty absorbed in the depth of unutterable agony, and yet suffused with love stronger than suffering; the figure of Paolo is worthy of his companion" (ibid, p. 16). The Morning Post praised the work by stating "...of Francesca de Rimini we have only space to say that it is one of the finest pictures, if not on some accounts the very finest picture that M. Doré has yet exhibited. As a piece of anatomical drawing, of flesh-tinting, of flesh surface, or foreshortening, of full and perfect womanly beauty...The 'Francesca' alone is worth a pilgrimage to see" (ibid, p. 16). The Art Journal adds "...the modeling of the shoulder of Paolo resembles that of St. John in the new "Michael Angelo" at the National Gallery. The style of the great masters of Italian art has been so far reproduced that, without being able to refer to the origin of this picture to the special study of either of the principal schools, we should not hesitiate to place it alongside some of the finest productions of the great period of painting....Let M. Doré paint thus and his fame will take care of itself". (ibid, p. 16).

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