Home / Art / Art HistoryThe History of Cupid in Art: How the God of Love Has Inspired Artists for Centuries

The History of Cupid in Art: How the God of Love Has Inspired Artists for Centuries

The Renaissance

With a renewed interest in classical art’s humanism, Renaissance artists represented Cupid as a realistic child. The figure continued to appear younger, culminating in portrayals that look like toddlers and even infants. This characteristic is apparent in both Italian and Northern Renaissance depictions, like Cupid in a Landscape and Cupid Complaining to Venus, respectively.

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

Il Sodoma, ‘Cupid in a Landscape,’ c. 1510 (Photo: Web Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons)

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

Raphael, ‘Cupid Complaining to Venus,’ 1525 (Photo via Wiki Art)

During the Italian Renaissance, many artists began to include several Cupids in a single painting. Known initially as amorini, these figures eventually evolved into putti, cherubic children found in many mythological and even biblical scenes of the period.

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

Raphael, ‘The Voyage of Galatea,’ 1511 (Photo: Web Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons)

Baroque

During the Baroque period, artists continued to incorporate several Cupids into their mythology-inspired paintings. Unlike the amorini and putti of the Renaissance, however, the figures painted by Baroque artists appear playful, emphasizing their youth and downplaying Cupid’s godly role and power.

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

Peter Paul Rubens, ‘The Feast of Venus,’ c. 1636-1637 (Photo: Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons)

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

Detail

Rococo

Rococo artists also embraced this approach to Cupid. It is particularly apparent in the pastel-colored paintings of François Boucher, a French artist who incorporated groups of Cupids in most of his mythological works.

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

François Boucher, ‘The Toilet of Venus,’ 1751 (Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons

Neoclassical

This iconography remained popular throughout the Neoclassical period, a movement inspired by classical artists’ sense of balance and focus on the human figure. Following this period, however, artists abandoned this approach to Cupid, opting instead for more avant-garde interpretations.

History of Cupid Valentine Art Valentine's Day Art Cupid Painting

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, ‘The Birth of Venus,’ 1879. (Photo: Musée d’Orsay via Wikimedia Commons)

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is an art historian living in Paris. Born and raised in San Francisco, Kelly holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.

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