Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, Amor Triumphant among Emblems of Art, Science and War, 1645-50

Amor is the Latin name for the Greek god Eros (Cupid in Roman mythology); the god of desire, attraction, and erotic love. Here he is portrayed with a man’s body and a boy’s head, holding one of his potent arrows. Whoever is shot with one of these arrows will be filled with uncontrollable desire.

The symbols of art, science, and war lay scattered throughout the scene; Amor steps on a painter’s palette, which lays next to a classical drawing and musical instruments, which lay next to books and scientific instruments for measuring and navigation. As our eye continues counterclockwise around the picture plane we see a globe, that which represents global exploration and conquest. Amor leans on the beautifully rendered knight’s armour at center, which naturally represents war; it is empty and looks dejected. Just behind we see the violent ruins of a great pagan temple. Amor sits triumphant over the wreckage that he wrought; as the Roman poet Virgil said, Love conquers all.

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