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The Art of Love – Virtual Tour

The Art of Love

Love Paintings – Virtual Tour

Love encompasses a range of deep emotional and mental states. Love ranges from the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest of pleasures.

Most commonly, love refers to a feeling of a strong attraction and emotional attachment. The core components of love are intimacy, passion, and commitment.

The word ‘Love’ is used to refer to the love of a mother, which differs from the love of a spouse, which again differs from the love of food or a pet. Love also has religious or spiritual meaning.

This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to define consistently.

Virtual Tour of the Art of Love

Highlights of Love in Art

“Honeysuckle Bower” by Peter Paul Rubens

“Honeysuckle Bower” by Peter Paul Rubens is a self-portrait of the Flemish Baroque painter and his first wife.

They were married in 1609, in St. Michael’s Abbey, Antwerp, shortly after he had returned to the city after eight years in Italy.

Rubens was 32 years old when he married the 18-year-old Isabella Brant, and this portrait was created shortly after their wedding.

Isabella was the daughter of the humanist and lawyer, Jan Brant, one of the secretaries of Antwerp. Museum: Alte Pinakothek

Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

“Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian depict Bacchus, the god of wine, emerging with his followers from the right of the scene and according to myth, falling in love at first sight with Ariadne.

Titian shows Bacchus leaping from his chariot to protect Ariadne, who has been abandoned on a Greek island and deserted by her lover Theseus, whose ship sails away to the far left of the picture.

The first commission for this painting was given to Raphael, who unfortunately died young in 1520, and Titian was given the opportunity to paint this mythological subject during 1522 for a wealthy patron. 

Museum:  National Gallery, London

“The Jewish Bride” by Rembrandt

“The Jewish Bride” by Rembrandt, gained its name in the early 19th century when an Amsterdam art collector identified the couple like that of a Jewish father bestowing a necklace upon his daughter on her wedding day.

This interpretation is no longer accepted, and the identity of the couple is uncertain.

The likeliest depiction is that of Isaac and Rebecca, as described in Genesis 26:8, and this view is supported by a Rembrandt drawing of Isaac and Rebecca, with the same theme which shows the couple in a similar composition.

Museum:  Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Titian

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Titian dramatically depict the Greek mythological story of Andromeda.

Perseus is portrayed as attacking the sea monster, who turns to attack the hero, while Andromeda’s white body is contrasted against the dark undercliff and portrayed as pure innocence.

Museum: Wallace Collection

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Giuseppe Cesari

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Giuseppe Cesari dramatically portray the Greek mythological story of Andromeda. Perseus is depicted flying above on his winged horse Pegasus.

Perseus is in the process of attacking the sea monster with a sword, who turns to attack the hero.

Andromeda’s white body is contrasted against the darker cliff and is depicted as pure innocence. Pegasus and Perseus are highlighted with the hero’s vivid yellow cape. Museum:  Kunsthistorisches Museum

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Joachim Wtewael

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Joachim Wtewael dramatically portray the Greek mythological story of Andromeda.

Andromeda was chained to a rock as an offering to the monster. Fortunately, Perseus was traveling home on his winged horse, Pegasus, after battling with Medusa. He rescued Andromeda by killing the beast.

The couple fell in love, but the Princess was already betrothed to Phineus. Perseus argued with Phineus at the wedding, but the fight was drawn to a conclusion when Phineus was turned to stone after Perseus brandished the head of Medusa.

Museum:  Louvre Museum

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton

“Perseus and Andromeda” by Frederic Leighton dramatically portray Andromeda, who was the daughter of the King and Queen of Ethiopia.

Her mother, the beautiful, but vain queen boasted that Andromeda, her daughter was more beautiful than all the sea nymphs.

The sea nymphs were the daughters of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and when the nymphs heard of her claims, they protested to their father.

Poseidon, to punish the Queen for her hubris, called up a sea monster to wreak havoc on Ethiopia, and this monster placed the kingdom at risk.

In response, the Queen, together with the King, decided to sacrifice their daughter, Princess Andromeda, to the beast. Museum: Walker Art Gallery

“Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt

“Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt depict a mother washing a child after getting up from his nap. The mother holds the child firmly and protectively while washing the child’s feet.

The right arm of the child embraces the mother’s neck and shoulder, while the other hand is used to balance its weight on the bed. The painting reflects the dignity of motherhood.

Cassatt’s artistic portrayal of women consistently reflected pride in the women’s role and the suggestion of a broader, more meaningful inner life. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

“Self-portrait with Her Daughter, Julie” by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

“Self-portrait with Her Daughter, Julie” by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun portrays the prominent French portrait painter who was a friend and favorite artist of Marie Antoinette.

In 1780, Vigée-Le Brun gave birth to a daughter, Jeanne Julie Louise, whom she called Julie.

In 1787, she caused a public scandal when this painting was exhibited at the Salon because she was shown smiling open-mouthed, which was in contravention of conventions going back to antiquity.

Museum: Louvre Museum

Fantine by Margaret Bernadine Hall

Fantine by Margaret Bernadine Hall depicts the mother of Cosette from Victor Hugo’s epic novel ‘Les Miserables’ (1862).

Fantine was a beautiful Parisian working-class girl who was very much in love with a man who eventually abandons her, treating their romantic relationship as youthful amusement.

Fantine is forced to draw on all her meager resources to care for her illegitimate daughter, Cosette.

Hall painted this picture in 1886, a year after Victor Hugo’s death, while she was in Paris. Hall’s picture shows Fantine in her despair as a mother who contemplates how she will support her daughter.

The mother’s and baby’s clothing, the cradle’s blankets, and the dark bare room all point to their financial constraints. Museum:        Walker Art Gallery

“The Mother and Sister of the Artist” by Berthe Morisot

“The Mother and Sister of the Artist” by Berthe Morisot depicts a family portrait and an intimate scene, which the artist created when Morisot’s sister stayed with her family in the winter of 1869–1870 to await the birth of her first child.

The loose white morning robe discreetly disguises the pregnancy.

“Morisot was anxious about submitting the painting to the Salon, and she sought Manet’s advice. Manet saw the painting on the very last day of submissions when he finally visited the Morisot home and studio.

Manet contributed by repainting the figure of the mother. Manet’s contributions can be seen in the mother’s features and dress compared to Morisot’s approach with her sister’s features, the floral upholstery, and the reflections in the mirror.

Museum: National Gallery of Art, DC

“Romeo and Juliet” by Ford Madox Brown

“Romeo and Juliet” by Ford Madox Brown depicts the romantic and poignant moment in the early dawn on Juliet’s balcony when Romeo needs to depart from his love.

Romeo has one leg over the balcony rail, with his foot woven into the rope ladder. His left arm and hand indicate his desperate need to depart before he is discovered.

But his right arm continues to embrace his Juliet, not wanting to end the embrace. Juliet holds him, fingers tightly grasping his body, not wanting to release her Romeo.  Museum:  Delaware Art Museum

“Love Locked Out” by Anna Lea Merritt

“Love Locked Out” by Anna Lea Merritt is the artist’s best-known work, and in memory of her late husband, who died in 1877, just three months after their wedding.

Cupid, the mythology god of love, is shown here trying to force open the door of a mausoleum.

Merritt feared the subject of her painting would be misinterpreted. She wrote in her memoir: “I feared people liked it as a symbol of forbidden love, while my Love was waiting for the door of death to open and the reunion of the lonely pair.”

Museum: Tate Britain

“In Bed” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“The Bed” (Le lit) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicts two women lying in bed gazing at one another with intimacy.

The white sheets of the bed contrast with the red bedspread, headboard, and wall behind. The women face each other, their bodies concealed beneath voluminous bedclothes.

The painting is suffused by a warm glow, perhaps the rosy light of the morning or the gas lamp.

Toulouse-Lautrec frequented brothels in Paris, and he admired the unguardedness of the women. Museum:  Musée d’Orsay

The History of Love

Ancient Greek philosophers identified five forms of love:

  • Familial Love (in Greek, Storge)
  • Friendly Love or platonic love (Philia)
  • Romantic Love (Eros),
  • Love of Guests (Xenia)
  • Divine Love (Agape).

Modern authors have distinguished further varieties of love:

  • Unrequited Love (love not reciprocated or understood by the other person).
  • Empty Love (commitment without intimacy or passion)
  • Companionate Love (an intimate, non-passionate type of love that is stronger than friendship because of long-term commitment)
  • Consummate Love (a complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship)
  • Infatuated Love (passion without intimacy or commitment)
  • Self-love (love for one’s happiness or advantage)
  • Courtly Love (a medieval literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry)

Asian cultures have also distinguished Ren, Kama, Bhakti, Mettā, Ishq, Chesed, and other variants of these states.

Virtual Tour on the Art of Everything

Take a Virtual Tour from Your Home

Art and Love in Renaissance Italy

Love the Art, Hate the Artist

Art Inspired by Romeo And Juliet

Artists in Love

Note to self – to be added to The Art of Love

  • In The Garden – Pierre Auguste Renoir
  • Happy Lovers by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
  • Le Printemps (Springtime), Pierre-Auguste Cot
  • Siesta – Van Gogh
  • Lovers under an Umbrella in the Snow by Suzuki Harunobu
  • Cupid and Psyche as Children by William Adolphe Bouguereau
  • The Fisherman and the Syren by Frederic Leighton
  • The Bolt by Jean Honore Fragonard
  • Andromache Mourning Hector by Jacques Louis David
  • In Bed, The Kiss by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder – The Unequal Couple (Old Man in Love)
  • Abelard and Heloïsa by Jean Vignaud


“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Photo Credit 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain]

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