Francesca was married to Paolo's elder brother - Giovanni Malatesta - who was lame, rude and not as handsome as his younger brother. Paolo too was married but this did not stop the two lovers from having an illicit affair. Their love story was, however, cut short when Giovanna found them kissing and killed them both. The painting is a well-detailed sketch with warm colours and clear affections depicted on the lovers' faces. The dark-brown, white, gold and blue colours used on the canvas depict emotions such as love, innocence, betrayal and even a sense of helplessness.

Frank Dicksee made the painting in 1894 where he sold it at an art collection. After he died in 1928, the painting was moved to a private collection of the museum of America. Although the painting was not created until after the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood era, Frank’s respect for the brotherhood is evident in his use of their techniques; social realism is used where guilt is evident in the faces of the lovers. Just like most of his other works, Frank addresses social issues in this painting. Frank came from a well-known artistic family. His father was the first to mentor him and Frank used to work in his workshop when he was younger. He further advanced his skills at the Royal Academy where he also met some well-established artists like John Everett Millais and Frederic Leighton who became some of his most notable mentors.

Paulo and Francesca had the following themes:

  • The two lovers embracing signified true love, which despite their many limitations and restrictions still thrives although behind their relatives back.
  • Betrayal when Giovanni in the background walks into the room while they are kissing.
  • Selfishness where despite the lovers being married they go out of their way to start an illicit affair.
  • Through the beautiful painting, Frank manages to pass some important information to people about our current social situations while keeping an accurate record of the famous history.