Dyce acknowledged this as one of the finest paintings he produced in Edinburgh. Its subject was inspired by the ill-fated lovers described by Dante in his epic poem 'The Inferno'. Francesca, married to an elderly and deformed husband Gianciotto, read to his younger brother Paolo and they fell in love. Gianciotto surprised the lovers and murdered them. He was originally included in Dyce's composition. A hint of the tragic outcome is still suggested dramatically by the presence of Gianciotto's disembodied hand at the left, a fortuitous result of the canvas trimmed to remove damage in 1882.