A Valentine for You

109384411.thbSusan here – with Valentine’s Day this weekend, I remembered a blog that I posted a couple of years ago that presented some of my favorite romantic art images and thought it would be fun to bring those back for another look and add a few more. So here's my Valentine to you — some beautiful, touching images of love expressed in art pieces through history.

Artists throughout history have expressed various representations of love in their artworks and elicit the same feelings as a book, music or a movie can evoke. Art can convey love, affection, attraction, passion, compassion, devotion and the endless facets of “romance” – and when we look at, we can often comprehend it in the blink of an eye.

The power of the visual is strong, immediate, intuitive. Vision is keyed to receptors in the brain and hot-wired to the heart – to centers of emotion and feeling. Images are shortcuts to understanding content and meaning. We can instantly recognize representations (realistic or less so) that convey emotions like love, caring, tenderness, sacrifice, support, sexual magnetism—some of the components of romance. Art elicits in us a response.

Tut chair
King Tutankhamun and his queen, Ankhesenamon, shown on the back of a golden chair found in Tut’s tomb. 18th dynasty. This shows the tenderness and affection between the teenage king and his young half-sister/wife – a sense of emotional intimacy that appears elsewhere in Egyptian art (particularly of this period).

Codex-manesse-14thcCodex Manesse, German, 14th century – medieval imagery of lovers is often stiff and unnatural, but this little image has a sweetness to it.

Van_EyckArnolfini
The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan Van Eyck, 1434, National Gallery, London. An enigmatic double portrait of a possible marriage between (tentatively identified) the Bruges merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife (her right hand in his left, the artist’s signature and image in the mirror on the back wall make this a possible legal document; other symbolic representations refer to marriage, loyalty, fertility and so on). Arnolfini was once described by a scholar as “a cold fish,” yet there’s a certain vulnerability and shyness in both groom and bride that is endlessly fascinating, and – even if one just absorbs the exquisite beauty of this little painting– it has a romantic, what-will-happen-to-them sense that captures our curiosity. There is a theory that this is perhaps a memorial portrait of a wife who had died – making this portrait even more romantic and poignant – and certainly less cold than some suggest.  

The-Jewish-BrideRembrandt, The Jewish Bride 1667, Rijksmuseum. The subjects of this picture are unknown – perhaps Old Testament figures, which Rembrandt painted often – or perhaps another couple. Whoever they are, the painting of these two is exquisite, rich with a real yet understated emotional content that seems lasting and powerful. There is such love in this painting, from the quiet, protective gestures to the warm lighting—even the build-up of paint on the surface adds layers of golden richness that deepen the emotional content.

Rembrandt-woman-bathing-stream-NG54-r-half

Rembrandt, Woman Bathing in a Stream, National Gallery, London. So romantic — and yet there is no pair of lovers, no obvious love-related situation – just Rembrandt’s young mistress, Hendrickje Stoffels, wading into a stream. She’s not the most gorgeous creature, is she. And yet we feel what the artist feels – such love and compassion and admiration for this simple, solid, warm young woman. The lover is not shown in the picture. He is busy painting—and we share his viewpoint.

1880_Pierre_Auguste_Cot_-_The_Storm (1)Pierre-Auguste Cot, The Storm, 1880, The Metropolitan Museum, NYC. In college, this was the poster I taped on my wall–the young lovers fleeing a storm or some unseen enemy, all gorgeous passion, swirling energy, devotion and the mystery of romance.  

                        Frederic_William_Burton_-_Hellelil_and_Hildebrand_or_The_Meeting_on_the_Turret_Stairs

Frederick Burton, The Meeting on the Turret Stair, Museum of Ireland, 1864. Poignant and powerful, the last meeting of a couple doomed to be apart–the last touch as they pass each other to be forever separated. The polished realism, the vivid color, the solid figures and the spiral of their bodies all work together to give this image its emotional power. 

Leighton_The_Painter-s_Honeymoon_1864

The Painter's Honeymoon, Lord Fredric Leighton, 1864, Boston MFA. This picture so beautifully conveys a moment of devoted, contented new love — light, textures, the contrast of hard and soft, light and dark, all contribute to the strength and quiet beauty of the image. 

539px-Edmund_blair_leighton_accolade

 

The Accolade, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1901, private collection. You probably guessed this one would show up here! This was another poster taped on my college wall for years — a quintessential expression of chivalry and romance–the lady, the knight, a quest, utter loyalty with a subtext of love and attraction — it's all here. Again the light, the textures (her hair and gown are sublimely depicted), the beauty and tenderness of both the knight and the lady convey a strong sense of romance. And what I love best about this image is the lady's strength — a role reversal for this sort of subject in art!

 

Dicksee waiting

 

 

 

 

Yseult, Sir Frank Dicksee  - an image of longing and love, Yseult waits and wonders about Tristan. Breathtaking. 

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So there you go, a quick trip through a gallery of romantic images. Happy Valentine’s Day to you – and on this or any weekend of the year, run out and get yourself some flowers and chocolates, buy yourself a present, pick up a wonderful book, and enjoy the weekend!    

25653755._UY200_
Valentine's special! My Taming the Heiress is on sale in ebook for .99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other digital outlets for a limited time! This Scottish Victorian story sends an engineer to a Hebridean island to build a lighthouse, where he matches wits with the island girl–and secret heiress–determined to stop the construction to protect an ancient legend. Adventure, danger, romance, two stubborn people in a beautiful Scottish setting–and a gorgeous Valentine-red cover–it's a treat I hope you'll enjoy!

News flash — I just learned that Taming the Heiress is listed as one of "101 Great Books under 2.99" at Barnes & Noble!    

So that's just kind of fun.  :) 

Susan

45 thoughts on “A Valentine for You”

  1. Every time I go back to London, I go and look at that weird Arnolfini Portrait! Ever since I saw some comment that the artist’s men always look like Vladimir Putin, I start laughing when I see the pictures!!
    Ugh. Valentine’s Day! We’ve just had two (one Ukrainian) Christmases, two New Years, and then almost every family birthday in January/February, including mine exactly a week before Valentine’s Day!!
    No more present-themed events, thank you!
    The Honeymoon painting always makes me swoon a bit…

    Reply
  2. Every time I go back to London, I go and look at that weird Arnolfini Portrait! Ever since I saw some comment that the artist’s men always look like Vladimir Putin, I start laughing when I see the pictures!!
    Ugh. Valentine’s Day! We’ve just had two (one Ukrainian) Christmases, two New Years, and then almost every family birthday in January/February, including mine exactly a week before Valentine’s Day!!
    No more present-themed events, thank you!
    The Honeymoon painting always makes me swoon a bit…

    Reply
  3. Every time I go back to London, I go and look at that weird Arnolfini Portrait! Ever since I saw some comment that the artist’s men always look like Vladimir Putin, I start laughing when I see the pictures!!
    Ugh. Valentine’s Day! We’ve just had two (one Ukrainian) Christmases, two New Years, and then almost every family birthday in January/February, including mine exactly a week before Valentine’s Day!!
    No more present-themed events, thank you!
    The Honeymoon painting always makes me swoon a bit…

    Reply
  4. Every time I go back to London, I go and look at that weird Arnolfini Portrait! Ever since I saw some comment that the artist’s men always look like Vladimir Putin, I start laughing when I see the pictures!!
    Ugh. Valentine’s Day! We’ve just had two (one Ukrainian) Christmases, two New Years, and then almost every family birthday in January/February, including mine exactly a week before Valentine’s Day!!
    No more present-themed events, thank you!
    The Honeymoon painting always makes me swoon a bit…

    Reply
  5. Every time I go back to London, I go and look at that weird Arnolfini Portrait! Ever since I saw some comment that the artist’s men always look like Vladimir Putin, I start laughing when I see the pictures!!
    Ugh. Valentine’s Day! We’ve just had two (one Ukrainian) Christmases, two New Years, and then almost every family birthday in January/February, including mine exactly a week before Valentine’s Day!!
    No more present-themed events, thank you!
    The Honeymoon painting always makes me swoon a bit…

    Reply
  6. I visited the Museum of Ireland years ago and bought a postcard of Burton’s “Meeting on the Stairs”. I love it to much to send it to someone. I’m sure one of the Wenches could (and maybe has) written a story where these star-crossed lovers find their HEA.

    Reply
  7. I visited the Museum of Ireland years ago and bought a postcard of Burton’s “Meeting on the Stairs”. I love it to much to send it to someone. I’m sure one of the Wenches could (and maybe has) written a story where these star-crossed lovers find their HEA.

    Reply
  8. I visited the Museum of Ireland years ago and bought a postcard of Burton’s “Meeting on the Stairs”. I love it to much to send it to someone. I’m sure one of the Wenches could (and maybe has) written a story where these star-crossed lovers find their HEA.

    Reply
  9. I visited the Museum of Ireland years ago and bought a postcard of Burton’s “Meeting on the Stairs”. I love it to much to send it to someone. I’m sure one of the Wenches could (and maybe has) written a story where these star-crossed lovers find their HEA.

    Reply
  10. I visited the Museum of Ireland years ago and bought a postcard of Burton’s “Meeting on the Stairs”. I love it to much to send it to someone. I’m sure one of the Wenches could (and maybe has) written a story where these star-crossed lovers find their HEA.

    Reply
  11. Happy belated birthday, Sonya! It’s a great month for birthdays, chocolate, flowers and cozying up near a bright fireplace.
    I studied that weird Arnolfini portrait in great detail in grad school, and I love it. There are some fascinating theories about who they are and why they are shown together, what sort of marriage was it (the position of the hands says a lot legally), is she pregnant, was she even living at the time of the painting (one theory suggests a posthumous portrait), and more. The iconography is fascinating, the detail and technique are dazzling, and the artist’s sketchy portrait in the mirror tops it all off. And yet it has that weirdness – he looks like a cold fish, but somehow sincere, and she doesn’t look thrilled. So innocent. Even so, there’s a wonderful gentle romantic sense there. 🙂
    And the honeymoon painting … just breathtaking.

    Reply
  12. Happy belated birthday, Sonya! It’s a great month for birthdays, chocolate, flowers and cozying up near a bright fireplace.
    I studied that weird Arnolfini portrait in great detail in grad school, and I love it. There are some fascinating theories about who they are and why they are shown together, what sort of marriage was it (the position of the hands says a lot legally), is she pregnant, was she even living at the time of the painting (one theory suggests a posthumous portrait), and more. The iconography is fascinating, the detail and technique are dazzling, and the artist’s sketchy portrait in the mirror tops it all off. And yet it has that weirdness – he looks like a cold fish, but somehow sincere, and she doesn’t look thrilled. So innocent. Even so, there’s a wonderful gentle romantic sense there. 🙂
    And the honeymoon painting … just breathtaking.

    Reply
  13. Happy belated birthday, Sonya! It’s a great month for birthdays, chocolate, flowers and cozying up near a bright fireplace.
    I studied that weird Arnolfini portrait in great detail in grad school, and I love it. There are some fascinating theories about who they are and why they are shown together, what sort of marriage was it (the position of the hands says a lot legally), is she pregnant, was she even living at the time of the painting (one theory suggests a posthumous portrait), and more. The iconography is fascinating, the detail and technique are dazzling, and the artist’s sketchy portrait in the mirror tops it all off. And yet it has that weirdness – he looks like a cold fish, but somehow sincere, and she doesn’t look thrilled. So innocent. Even so, there’s a wonderful gentle romantic sense there. 🙂
    And the honeymoon painting … just breathtaking.

    Reply
  14. Happy belated birthday, Sonya! It’s a great month for birthdays, chocolate, flowers and cozying up near a bright fireplace.
    I studied that weird Arnolfini portrait in great detail in grad school, and I love it. There are some fascinating theories about who they are and why they are shown together, what sort of marriage was it (the position of the hands says a lot legally), is she pregnant, was she even living at the time of the painting (one theory suggests a posthumous portrait), and more. The iconography is fascinating, the detail and technique are dazzling, and the artist’s sketchy portrait in the mirror tops it all off. And yet it has that weirdness – he looks like a cold fish, but somehow sincere, and she doesn’t look thrilled. So innocent. Even so, there’s a wonderful gentle romantic sense there. 🙂
    And the honeymoon painting … just breathtaking.

    Reply
  15. Happy belated birthday, Sonya! It’s a great month for birthdays, chocolate, flowers and cozying up near a bright fireplace.
    I studied that weird Arnolfini portrait in great detail in grad school, and I love it. There are some fascinating theories about who they are and why they are shown together, what sort of marriage was it (the position of the hands says a lot legally), is she pregnant, was she even living at the time of the painting (one theory suggests a posthumous portrait), and more. The iconography is fascinating, the detail and technique are dazzling, and the artist’s sketchy portrait in the mirror tops it all off. And yet it has that weirdness – he looks like a cold fish, but somehow sincere, and she doesn’t look thrilled. So innocent. Even so, there’s a wonderful gentle romantic sense there. 🙂
    And the honeymoon painting … just breathtaking.

    Reply
  16. I love it too! I’m with you, I’ve always been intrigued, wondering what the story is between these two as they pass each other with such longing.
    It’s supposed to depict an old legend though I’m not familiar with the details.

    Reply
  17. I love it too! I’m with you, I’ve always been intrigued, wondering what the story is between these two as they pass each other with such longing.
    It’s supposed to depict an old legend though I’m not familiar with the details.

    Reply
  18. I love it too! I’m with you, I’ve always been intrigued, wondering what the story is between these two as they pass each other with such longing.
    It’s supposed to depict an old legend though I’m not familiar with the details.

    Reply
  19. I love it too! I’m with you, I’ve always been intrigued, wondering what the story is between these two as they pass each other with such longing.
    It’s supposed to depict an old legend though I’m not familiar with the details.

    Reply
  20. I love it too! I’m with you, I’ve always been intrigued, wondering what the story is between these two as they pass each other with such longing.
    It’s supposed to depict an old legend though I’m not familiar with the details.

    Reply
  21. Thank you for this post. I don’t believe I have ever looked for this type of romance in paintings. Thank you for the heads up!

    Reply
  22. Thank you for this post. I don’t believe I have ever looked for this type of romance in paintings. Thank you for the heads up!

    Reply
  23. Thank you for this post. I don’t believe I have ever looked for this type of romance in paintings. Thank you for the heads up!

    Reply
  24. Thank you for this post. I don’t believe I have ever looked for this type of romance in paintings. Thank you for the heads up!

    Reply
  25. Thank you for this post. I don’t believe I have ever looked for this type of romance in paintings. Thank you for the heads up!

    Reply
  26. That image of King Tut and his queen is probably my all-time, lifelong favorite romantic image. But now you’ve added several more to the library in my mind’s eye (and on my computer desktop!). Many thanks, and happy Valentine’s to you, too, Susan.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  27. That image of King Tut and his queen is probably my all-time, lifelong favorite romantic image. But now you’ve added several more to the library in my mind’s eye (and on my computer desktop!). Many thanks, and happy Valentine’s to you, too, Susan.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  28. That image of King Tut and his queen is probably my all-time, lifelong favorite romantic image. But now you’ve added several more to the library in my mind’s eye (and on my computer desktop!). Many thanks, and happy Valentine’s to you, too, Susan.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  29. That image of King Tut and his queen is probably my all-time, lifelong favorite romantic image. But now you’ve added several more to the library in my mind’s eye (and on my computer desktop!). Many thanks, and happy Valentine’s to you, too, Susan.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  30. That image of King Tut and his queen is probably my all-time, lifelong favorite romantic image. But now you’ve added several more to the library in my mind’s eye (and on my computer desktop!). Many thanks, and happy Valentine’s to you, too, Susan.
    Cheers,
    Faith

    Reply
  31. I can’t look at the Pierre-Auguste Cot picture without thinking of the beautifully rendered pencil copy (about half size) by a great aunt – in which neither the man or woman has nipples O_o I’m not sure whether that was due to her personal maidenly modesty, or maybe she was copying from another copy that didn’t have nipples???

    Reply
  32. I can’t look at the Pierre-Auguste Cot picture without thinking of the beautifully rendered pencil copy (about half size) by a great aunt – in which neither the man or woman has nipples O_o I’m not sure whether that was due to her personal maidenly modesty, or maybe she was copying from another copy that didn’t have nipples???

    Reply
  33. I can’t look at the Pierre-Auguste Cot picture without thinking of the beautifully rendered pencil copy (about half size) by a great aunt – in which neither the man or woman has nipples O_o I’m not sure whether that was due to her personal maidenly modesty, or maybe she was copying from another copy that didn’t have nipples???

    Reply
  34. I can’t look at the Pierre-Auguste Cot picture without thinking of the beautifully rendered pencil copy (about half size) by a great aunt – in which neither the man or woman has nipples O_o I’m not sure whether that was due to her personal maidenly modesty, or maybe she was copying from another copy that didn’t have nipples???

    Reply
  35. I can’t look at the Pierre-Auguste Cot picture without thinking of the beautifully rendered pencil copy (about half size) by a great aunt – in which neither the man or woman has nipples O_o I’m not sure whether that was due to her personal maidenly modesty, or maybe she was copying from another copy that didn’t have nipples???

    Reply
  36. I have to agree with you on The Accolade. It is one of my favorite paintings as well. Although I had never seen the Mmeting on the Turret Stair, I have to say it may be a new favorite of mine. Thank you so very much for including these along with their stories and locations. It makes them much easier to research later.

    Reply
  37. I have to agree with you on The Accolade. It is one of my favorite paintings as well. Although I had never seen the Mmeting on the Turret Stair, I have to say it may be a new favorite of mine. Thank you so very much for including these along with their stories and locations. It makes them much easier to research later.

    Reply
  38. I have to agree with you on The Accolade. It is one of my favorite paintings as well. Although I had never seen the Mmeting on the Turret Stair, I have to say it may be a new favorite of mine. Thank you so very much for including these along with their stories and locations. It makes them much easier to research later.

    Reply
  39. I have to agree with you on The Accolade. It is one of my favorite paintings as well. Although I had never seen the Mmeting on the Turret Stair, I have to say it may be a new favorite of mine. Thank you so very much for including these along with their stories and locations. It makes them much easier to research later.

    Reply
  40. I have to agree with you on The Accolade. It is one of my favorite paintings as well. Although I had never seen the Mmeting on the Turret Stair, I have to say it may be a new favorite of mine. Thank you so very much for including these along with their stories and locations. It makes them much easier to research later.

    Reply

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