Here it is: The sensual and passionated kiss between Paolo Malatesta e Francesca da Rimini, protagonist of Dante’s V Canto of Divina Commedia.
The sculpture is at Rodin museum in rue de Varenne 77, Paris.
If you live in London, I would suggest to visit the Tate Modern.
Here, on the fifth floor you can admire the copy that Rodin made in 1900 for Edward Perry Warren, an eccentric American art collector, who lived in Lews, East Sussex, England.
Paolo is holding the book that tells the story of the secret love between Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife, and Lancelot.
Francesca at the end of Dante’s V canto describes the book with these words, which are very famous in Italy:
Galeotto fu il libro e chi lo scrisse
The book and writer both
Were love’s purveyors
The word galeotto is still used in Italian to speak about someone who arranges marriage or initiates romantic relationships between others.
Galeotto = Matchmaker
If you are curious about Francesca da Rimini, she was the daughter of the Lord of Rimini, Guido da Polenta. She was forced by her father to marry Gianciotto, Lord of Rimini, a man who was as brave as he was ugly. It did not take long before Francesca fell in love with Paolo, Gianciotto’s brother. Paolo and Francesca were caught in flagrante adulterio while they were reading the love story of Guinevere and Lancelot and they were both killed.
colti in flagrante = having adulterous relations
Gioacchino Rossini in 1848 wrote an arietta entitled “Il Canto di Francesca da Rimini”, a rarely performed piece taken from lines 127-138 of the Fifth Canto of the Inferno.
Here the arietta sang by the Italian mezzosoprano Anna Bonitatibus
Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.
Per più fiate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.
Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,
la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu ’l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.
English translation from the Harvard Classics: The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry F. Cary, 1909–14
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
How him love thrall’d. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Oft-times by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter’d cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile so raptorously kiss’d
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne’er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss’d. The book and writer both
Were love’s purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more.”
I would like to conclude this post with the beautiful words that Alda Merini ( la poetessa dei navigli di Milano ) wrote for all lovers.
Il bacio è come una
fa fuggire lontano gli amanti,
un amore che non ti gela
che ti dà mille duemila instanti