Arts, Culture & Media

Art about love: 14 pieces that inspire

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We asked the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to dig through 500,000 works and come up with a list — and an explanation — for art that inspires love. And by love, we don't mean necessarily just between a couple. This could reflect good feelings for parents, siblings, children, best friends and, well, museum-goers. Take a look, and tell us what you think.

1. King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and Queen

King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and Queen, 2490–2472 BC | Gallery 207

King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and Queen, 2490–2472 BC | Gallery 207

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

One of the finest pieces of Egyptian sculpture known, this king and his queen represent the idealized concept of the monarchy in Egypt’s pyramid age with their serene expressions and clear sense of purpose. They could be called the ultimate power couple.

2. Mosaic with cupids gathering roses

Mosaic with cupids gathering roses, early 3rd century | Gallery 214

Mosaic with cupids gathering roses, early 3rd century | Gallery 214

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

What’s more romantic than cupids? This panel depicts cupids placing flowers into woven baskets and stringing them into rose garlands. They may have been preparing for a festival to celebrate the rose harvest.

3. Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel

Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel, John Singer Sargent, 1903 | Gallery 232

Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel, John Singer Sargent, 1903 | Gallery 232

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gretchen Osgood Warren — member of a prominent Boston family and an accomplished poet — posed with her eldest daughter at Fenway Court, now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Warren’s daughter affectionately rests her head on her mother’s shoulder in a position evocative of motherly love.

4. Eternal Springtime

Eternal Springtime, Auguste Rodin, about 1916–17 | Gallery 255

Eternal Springtime, Auguste Rodin, about 1916–17 | Gallery 255

 

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Rodin’s lovers express bliss through their dynamic postures. The woman’s open arching position and man’s expansive embrace create a moving, timeless, yet natural image of love.

5. “Visiting Masterpiece: Gustav Klimt’s Adam and Eve”

“Visiting Masterpiece: Gustav Klimt’s Adam and Eve” | Gallery 155

“Visiting Masterpiece: Gustav Klimt’s Adam and Eve” | Gallery 155

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gustav Klimt, known for his romantic painting “The Kiss,” depicts a voluptuous Eve standing in a bed of anemones, silhouetted against a leopard’s skin — quite literally overshadowing her mate, Adam. Klimt, known for his bluntness, once said: "All art is erotic.''

6. Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer

Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, original model 1878–81, cast after 1921

Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, original model 1878–81, cast after 1921

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Loved by little girls around the world, Degas’ sculpture of a young Belgian dancer named Marie von Gloethem is the artist’s largest surviving sculpture. It is also one of the most popular objects in the MFA. 

7. At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight)

At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight), Childe Hassam, 1885–86

At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight), Childe Hassam, 1885–86

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In At Dusk, a fashionably dressed woman and little girl stroll along one of the promenades on Boston Common — one of city’s most beloved parks, and one of the Museum’s most beloved paintings.

8. Woman with a Parasol and Small Child on a Sunlit Hillside

Woman with a Parasol and Small Child on a Sunlit Hillside, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, about 1874–76

Woman with a Parasol and Small Child on a Sunlit Hillside, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, about 1874–76

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Renoir’s model for this painting was likely Camille Monet, beloved wife of his fellow Impressionist Claude Monet. Here she sits on a hillside, her grace and composure stand in marked contrast to the toddling child who wanders off into the background at right.

9. Boys in a Pasture

Boys in a Pasture, Winslow Homer, 1874

Boys in a Pasture, Winslow Homer, 1874

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Winslow Homer is one of America’s best-loved artists, and art-lovers are known to fall for his sunny, optimistic portraits. The boys in this painting — companionable, idle, at peace — may represent hope for the future.

10. Mother and Child in a Boat

Mother and Child in a Boat, Edmund Charles Tarbell, 1892

Mother and Child in a Boat, Edmund Charles Tarbell, 1892

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tarbell came to Impressionism early, and by 1891 had adopted a brilliantly colored and loosely painted technique. This idyllic image of his wife and daughter reflects the artist’s love of family.

11. Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri (in special exhibition: Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott)

Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri (in special exhibition: Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott), Gordon Parks, 1950

Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri (in special exhibition: Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott), Gordon Parks, 1950

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In 1950, Earl Collins and his wife Ada and 9-year-old daughter, Doris Jean, were settled in St. Louis. This is one of many images that Parks made of his friend lovingly interacting with his young daughter.

12. Aurora Triumphing over Night

Aurora Triumphing over Night, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, about 1755-56

Aurora Triumphing over Night, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, about 1755-56

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

An exceptionally rare and unusually splendid example of Fragonard’s early decorative work, this painting shows the goddess Aurora lovingly awakening Night. As an over-door decoration of grand scale with mythological subject and sumptuous style, this work epitomizes the elegance of Rococo painting.

13. Portrait of a Young Married Couple

Portrait of a Young Married Couple, Jacob Jordaens, about 1621–22

Portrait of a Young Married Couple, Jacob Jordaens, about 1621–22

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Flemish version of modern day wedding photos features a young married couple posing before grand architecture and a distant natural landscape, with the ivy behind them symbolizing marital love and fidelity.

14. Bacchus Discovering Ariadne

Bacchus Discovering Ariadne, Jacob Jordaens, late 1640s

Bacchus Discovering Ariadne, Jacob Jordaens, late 1640s

Credit:

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ariadne, princess of Crete, had been deserted on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus when Bacchus, god of wine, and his satyrs stumbled upon her. For Bacchus, the attraction was immediate. Here he holds up her crown — according to the myth, he’ll toss it into the sky to create a constellation in her honor.

Readers, what works of art inspire you — or make you feel better about people and the world? What one piece of art would you like to see on Valentine's Day? Let us know in the comments section.