Arrows of Love

The oil painting above, “Diana and Cupid” is by Pompeo Batoni, which he completed in 1761.  The painting was commissioned by Sir Humphrey Morice (1723 – 1785), a wealthy merchant and the director of the Bank of England.  You can see the painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and to me, it’s a work that has great significance in representing and combining themes of love and violence.

While the painting does not have an inherently violent theme, it is the presence of the bow in the goddess Diana’s hands, and the way in which Cupid reaches in vain for it, gives me the impression that humans have a natural inclination for the lust for power, or perhaps a desire for what one cannot have as Diana withholds Cupid’s bow.  The image of Diana in the painting is inspired by a statue in the Vatican of the Sleeping Ariadne (below). The work in the Vatican was purchased in 1512 by Pope Julius II. Ariadne was identified to be Cleopatra, who has been consistently depicted thereafter in a reclining position (as famously remembered in Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of the Egyptian ruler in the film 1963 film Cleopatra).

Considering images of the adorable Cupid, the son of Venus, and the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection, it’s interesting to consider themes that arise through that: how violence and love seem so different, yet are not entirely separate, and that they are not parallel themes, but they are interwoven themes.  The arrow is present with Cupid for a reason… love wounds and inflames the heart and love can conquer all.

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