The triumph of love or Allegory of Venus and Cupid —The two names by which the painting is usually identified — is situated halfway between a warning and a premonition. It was painted by Agnolo di Torri or Angelo di Cosimo di Mariano (Florence, 1503 – Florence, 1572). Like the painting, the artist was also known by various names, although the one that ended up prevailing was that of Bronzino. “It is said that he was very dark skinned,” says the art historian and cultural promoter Sara rubayo: “And that’s why the Bronzino thing.” However, complete, “it is also attributed a rather closed character, so that the nickname can also come from there.” The fact is that the canvas that we are dealing with this week in “The Gallery” is impossible to understand without its context. “It is a Mannerist painting with a very high symbolic charge,” explains Rubayo, “and only taking into account the context in which Bronzino painted it, we can understand why it includes all the elements that we see in the work, which It is not at all what it seems at first glance. ”
Lets start by the beginning. Who orders the painting from the Florentine painter? We are in the middle of the 16th century. Bronzino, as the historian and painter Giorgio Vasari wrote in Le vite de ‘più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettoriAt that time, he was the most sought-after artist, so he was commissioned a painting that had to reach great heights of beauty, since it was going to be given as a gift to the King of France. And this is not a trivial fact. “Francis I of France was famous for being a great fan of the vices of meat, and also steak,” jokes the art historian. It seems that the monarch had a taste for earthly pleasures and this helps to understand the meaning of the painting that Bronzino painted. Vasari described it like this: ” He made a painting of singular beauty, which was sent to France, to King Francis. In it there was a naked Venus with Cupid, who kissed her, and Pleasure on the one hand and Play with other loves. On the other, deception, jealousy and other passions of love. ”
Before discovering what is the meaning of all the agents that appear on the canvas, a small spoiler: “ Francisco I should not have paid much attention to the pictorial notice that Bronzino sent him, since, two years after receiving the gift , the French king died and, on top of that, from syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, which, by the way, ” Rubayo warns, ” is represented in the painting. ”
Who is what in Bronzino’s allegory
“Like any allegorical painting, each figure represents some quality, a vice or a virtue,” says Rubayo. “The work,” he continues, “presents various allegorical characters fitted together like pieces of a puzzle, occupying all the margins and leaving a crowded but harmonious composition.” Although the central characters are Venus and Cupid, the gods of the two main versions of love, and that could lead the observer to think that it is precisely a love painting, nothing is further from reality. “As much as Venus and Cupid occupy the centrality of the painting,” says the popularizer, “you have to look at all the rest of the characters to understand what the real theme is.”
What must be taken into account is how these two protagonists are represented and, above all, in who they accompany them. ” To begin with, ” Rubayo teases, ” Venus and Cupido hug each other zigzagging, kissing on the mouth, which is an act of lust and sinful incest. Also, the boy pinches his mother’s nipple. ” And those are just some symbols of sensuality and desire that appear in the work, but there are many more, for example, the doves and the masks that rest at his feet. ” Right behind Venus, ” Rubayo points out, ” there is a curly-haired boy jumping happily about to throw roses at the couple. ” It is the happy face of love, of joy. “On his left ankle,” he adds, “he wears a bracelet of bells that alludes to that joie de vivre.” We are in front of the personification of Pleasure. We also see him stepping on some thorns that are associated with the pain that love can cause. However, Pleasure does not notice it.
Behind that personification of pleasure, Bronzino painted a falsely angelic sweet face of a girl whose hands are in an impossible disposition. “They are turned upside down,” says the disseminator, “which reveals their true nature: it is deception.” Its body is that of a snake with lion’s feet and a tail that ends in a double scorpion sting, but that offers us a honeycomb of rich honey. In other words, it tries to play with us and confuse us. For his part, the old, bearded man that appears above is Cronos, the god of time and natural enemy of love. In front of him, the personification of oblivion tries to cover the scene. Finally, under the oblivion we find the character that connects with the story of King Francis I of France. In Vasari’s writings, this character is identified as the personification of jealousy, but, as Rubayo explains, “recent studies have seen in him an image of syphilis.” Clearly, the Gallic monarch either did not know how to read the coded message that the Tuscan court gave him through Bronzino, or he did not want to pay too much attention.