Love & War~ May 7

Paris BordoneAllegory with Lovers
1550 / Oil on canvas / 43.8”x68.7” / Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Victory crowns Mars and Venus with myrtle, Venus plucks a lemon from a tree,
and Cupid tips roses into her lap

Venus, Flora, Mars and Cupid (Allegory)
c.1560 / Oil on canvas / 42.5”x50.7” / Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Cupid crowns Venus and showers Flora with roses while the two exchange flowers;
Mars, in the background, holds a battle axe

The conceit of love’s conquest was often given visual form by artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, who illustrated Cupid at the center of a triumphal procession or wrestling Pan, symbol of the universe, to the ground. The interaction between Cupid and his mother could also be a metaphor for various aspects of love, while the adulterous affair between Venus and Mars, the god of war, could signify the capacity of love to subdue violence.

Paris Bordone (or Bordon) was from Treviso on the Venetian mainland, where he was baptised on July 5, 1500. After the death of his father (a master saddler), he was taken at the age of eight by his mother to Venice. According to Vasari, he trained for a time with Titian, who is said to have treated him badly…Whether because of a continuing hostility by Titian towards his former pupil or because of competition from other artists, Bordone had difficulty securing major commissions in Venice and, though he continued to live mainly in the city, much of his work was done for patrons elsewhere.

Bordone increasingly became identified with glossy portraiture, frequently illustrating the theme of problematic love. He often painted beautiful courtesans and erotic mythological and allegorical subjects, which appealed to his wealthy clients.

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