Painting Analysis

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“Garden of Love”

Peter Paul Rubens’ “Garden of Love”, encompasses and captures the Baroque ideal of richness and lavishness. The viewer will observe a fusion of the realistic tradition of Flemish painting with the imagination and freedom of Italian renaissance painting. The painting expresses Neoplatonic views while also providing the viewer with endless topics for discussion and analysis, making it a true conversation piece. The “Garden of Love” depicts a scene of passionate festivities. In the painting, a group of aristocratic lovers decorated in the most extravagant of satins and lace are placed in a garden dedicated to Venus. The elegant gentlemen and women seem to be full of life and spirit. It is a radiant summer day, and the shady darkness of a grotto engulfed with sensuality. The painting was described in “Rubens Conversatie a la Mode” as, “These portrayals suggest a general scene of fashionable society.” (Goodman)

The painting expands in a series of spirals mounting upward toward the figure of Venus. Venus, the Goddess of Love, is seen as a sculpture in the right of the painting riding a dolphin. Venus presides over the festivities of this enriched scene. At the far left, Cupid pushes a somewhat reluctant couple into the group of lovers gathered on the lawn. The couple is Rubens and his wife, Helena. Framed between the dark dress of Helena and that of the young woman on the ground to her immediate right Rubens draws the viewer into a conversation between a couple. The man speaks to the woman he pursues so sincerely, but she looks away as if she were bored. Three beautiful women are shown in the center with three distinguished poses that may symbolize Neoplatonism in the work. One gazes at the viewer, the other is fixated upon the heavens and the third is mature having a conversation. Upon the edge of the fountain and throughout the upper portions of the canvas are a number of chubby cherubs. They float in the air with weapons; they...
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