Love is the universal emotion that is at the origin of life. The ways of loving, however, have known many turning points throughout history inducing the radical changes which occurred in women status with time.
Love has provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists of all times. “Amour”, at the Musée du Louvre-Lens, has retraced the history of Love from Adam and Eve era till the 20th century through seven major stages; Seduction, Worship, Passion, Relationship, Pleasures, Romanticism, and Freedom. The subject was illustrated with a selection of some 250 artworks of art in diverse media and from various civilizations; masterpieces of ancient statuary, precious objects from the Middle Ages, paintings by Memling, Fragonard and Delacroix, and sculptures by Canova, Rodin and Claudel.
A HISTORY OF WAYS OF LOVING…
Drawing on their own sensibility and style, artists have captured the realities of their time, expressing its fears, beliefs and aspirations. The founding myths of the West attribute humanity’s misfortunes to the powers of seduction of the ﬁrst woman, be it Eve in the Garden of Eden or Pandora at the time of the Golden Age. This original stigmatization led to an imbalance between the partners. The works of Antiquity reveal a conception of love that could be experienced as evil, legitimizing acts of violence and the domination of one sex by the other. With the advent of Christianity, the concept of love evolved. The misogynistic heritage passed down from Antiquity also conﬂicted with the image of the mother, who was venerated through the cult of the Virgin. The latter compensated for Eve’s error and rehabilitated woman’s image, but this was sometimes at the cost of the condemnation of carnal love. Under the inﬂuence of Eastern civilizations, the Middle Ages invented courtly love, in which the Lady ruled over the knight who served her.
The conception of relationships was the source of the rules of reﬁned courtship in the 17th century. But very quickly, relationships evolved into the libertines’ quest for the pleasures of the ﬂesh in the second half of the 18th century. Later on Romantic feeling came as a reaction to this celebration of carnal pleasure, marking a return in the West to the ancient concept of a single entity. With Romanticism, marrying for love began to replace marriages arranged for material reasons. The acceptance of marriage for love by 19th-century society was a step towards the triumph of consent in love over social contingencies. In the 20th century, both partners in a couple regarded themselves as fully active agents in their relationship. Today, we are still marked by the utopia of free love, which inﬂuenced some of the radical changes that love underwent in the 20th century. The quest for Freedom and the importance attached to each person as the subject of his own story even went as far as to sweep aside all conventional frameworks, starting with marriage.