12 works of art inspired by love

By Michelle Fong, Staff Writer

Love is everywhere.

And the Dayton Art Institute is no exception.

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and what better way to celebrate love than with art inspired by that very theme. I took a tour of the museum with Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, chief curator, in search of some of the museum’s best works of art about love.

“Everywhere you look, there are different stories of love,” DeGalan said. “It’s such a ubiquitous theme in art.”

Here are 12 works of art with love — in many forms — as the focal point. These are pieces of art that you can go see today, tomorrow or anytime you’re in the mood to celebrate one of life’s greatest gifts.


What: The Dayton Art Institute

Where: 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton

More info: 937-223-5277 or www.daytonartinstitute.org


   Tuesday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

   Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.

   Extended hours until 8 p.m. Thursday

   Closed Mondays


Suggested general admission to The Dayton Art Institute’s permanent collection:

    Adults: $8
    Seniors (60+), Active Military & Groups: $5
    College Students (18+ with ID): Free
    Youth & Children (17 and under): Free
    Members: Free



    12 works of art inspired by love, item 1

    Luca Cambiaso, 1564: The image of the Virgin Mary with her son, Jesus. This painting emphasizes the warmth and love between the Virgin Mary and her son.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 2

    Jane Reece, 1924: The word Madonna traditionally refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Dayton artist Jane Reece gave this title to her soft-focus photograph to suggest that all mothers are sacred.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 3

    Michael Conrad Hirt, 1638: This painting is a wedding portrait. Wealthy men commissioned portraits of their daughters when they were old enough to be married. The young women were painted in elaborate costumes and impressive jewels to show off the family’s wealth. The subject of this piece wears black-colored jewels around her neck and on her hands and lace in her hair. Her dress was fashioned after a the style of a German military uniform. She also wears gold medals from the kings of Poland and Sweden.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 4

    Jan Brueghel the Younger, Hendrick van Balen, 1610-20: This collaborative piece of art is based on a story from Book VII of the Roman author Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” one of many classical texts rediscovered during the Renaissance. The river god Acheloüs explains to the Greek hero Theseus that a distant island is his former lover Perimele, transformed by Neptune so that she could remain forever within the river’s embrace.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 5

    Attributed to Franz Sebald Unterberger, 1750: This painting is believed to have been a sketch for a large-scale church altarpiece. It shows a scene in the life of Catherine of Alexandria. According to legend, she was executed by the Roman emperor Maxentius early in the fourth century for refusing to recant her new faith and to marry the emperor. Before her death, Catherine had a vision in which she underwent a mystic marriage to Christ, seen in this work as an infant standing next to the crowned Virgin Mary.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 6

    Sir Richard Cosway: Portrait miniatures such as this were often given as tokens of love to admirers. This watercolor on ivory, set in a gold box, is a portrait miniature and one of the museum’s hidden treasures, DeGalan said. “These were usually a disc given as a locket to wear close to your heart and keep a loved one close or to be held in the hand as a token of love.”


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 7

    Artist unknown, 1860-70: Not much is known about this painting — not the artist, subject matter or even the country of origin. The chapel, however, is a real place located in Perugia, Italy. Some scholars suggest that the couple depicted in the painting is Romeo and Juliet, even though the famous play with this title was set in a different city in Italy.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 8

    Indian, Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty (730-1027), Late 9th-early 10th century: Originally decorated the exterior of a Hindu temple, this sculpture depicts Shiva and Parvati sitting on Shiva’s bull (Nandi) and embracing each other, a symbol of the union of physical and spiritual elements. Shiva is raising his right hand making the gesture of silent exposition. Both deities wear jeweled diadems, earrings, necklaces, armbands, anklets and girdles. Three effaced figures on the lower section represent the children of the couple: elephant headed Ganesha, Bharngi and Krttikeya. On the left corner is Shiva’s enemy Bhairava, God of Terror, and on the right are two Parvati’s attendants.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 9

    Charles Soule Jr., American, 1863: This painting reflects the physical and emotional repercussions of the Civil War. The artist based this painting on a work titled “Evangeline” by the Scottish artist Thomas Faed, which itself is derived from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem of the same title. Set in Acadie, present-day Nova Scotia, Longfellow’s heroine spent her life searching for her lover, Gabriel, who was seized and deported by the British during their colonization. As a standard image for mourning and loss, Faed’s work was widely distributed in the United States through prints, photographs and postcards. Soule most likely saw one of these examples and later copied the image, adapting its sentiment to suit the post-war mood.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 10

    Eastman Johnson, 1870: Trained at the Düsseldorf Academy in Germany, Eastman Johnson was one of the most technically proficient American artists working in the 1860s and 1870s. His paintings of country life appealed to 19th-century patrons who were nostalgic for rural images. In this painting, the theme of young love is given fresh treatment through Johnson’s use of natural poses for the pair whose physical distance and psychological closeness underscore the couple’s desire to be together. The result is a picture that captures the tension and excitement of the first stage of romance.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 11

    Greco-Roman, first century: What says love more than the goddess herself? The fragmented torso and legs are that of Aphrodite, and the child is Eros. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite (later named Venus by the Romans) is the goddess of love who was born from the aphros, or sea foam. Her son Eros (Cupid to the Romans), the god of love, sits at her feet. A dolphin swims by Aphrodite's ankles, symbolizing her birth from the sea.


    12 works of art inspired by love, item 12

    Baron Francois-Xavier Fabre, French, 1800: The subject of this portrait is familial love. The subject is a daughter whose father was imprisoned and left to die of starvation. During her visits to her father, she secretly kept him alive by feeding him milk from her own breast.