Amor Vincit Omnia
By: Belinda Labatte
Love conquers all. How beautiful and tender it is to acknowledge love and its ability to heal, resolve, relieve and conquer all. It is our eternal hope. And to believe in love is essential to our existence. The notion that love is victorious over all is hopeful and prosaic and yet the human experience shows each of how devastating love can be. Love conquers all was first introduced by the poet Virgil published sometime around 37 B.C. Cupid, the cherub, represents the allegory of love and that it alone conquers all.
Amor vincit omnia through the ages and the arts:
Here are some depictions of ‘amor vincit omnia’, starting with The Triumph of Love, by Titian (mid 1540s), last shown in the 1960s it now remains out of sight. It too has exuberant small boy, Cupid, open and inviting; ready to make his mark and pierce one with his bow and arrow.
Titian, The Triumph of Love, 1543-46
And then later with Caravaggio (1620-1630). Here the cherub is open, cheeky, laughing in your face naked. Depicting love in a pure sense, more like the parental love and the expression of pure joy than any notion of romantic love.
Both works are examples of chiaroscuro, the intense contrast between dark and light elements which ostensibly defines many works of the 17th century and the baroque period. Caravaggio however is seen as a master of chiaroscuro.
Caravaggio, Amor Vincit Omnia, circa 1602
And then Baudelaire, one of my preferred poets (1821-1867). To me, he is funny and acerbic, and yet still deeply romantic, tender and full of compassion. “Passion I hate and sprit does me wrong. Let us love gently,” if love conquers all, then to look for love everywhere.
“Ce que les hommes nomment amour est bien petit, bien restreint et bien faible, compare a cette ineffable orgie, a cette sainte prostitution de l’âme qui se donne tout entière, poésie et charité a l’imprévue qui se montre, a l’inconnu qui passe ‘’ (Baudelaire, Le Foules).
As a counterpoint to Titian and Caravaggio, and Baudelaire. I fast forward through time to Harland Miller and Love Conquers Nothing (2011). The era of abstract expressionism in the U.S. coming to its peak in the 1950s, with Harland moving forward with avant-garde art works as the new expressionists and then as pop artists evolve in the 1970s. Harland Miller is a British artist and author who is best known for his large-scale, photo-realistic works depicting vintage Penguin book covers with works similar in scope to American artist Ed Ruscha. Here with Love Conquers Nothing we understand from the body of his work that sarcasm and humour are more important than the topic. Nonetheless, it does give pause on what love conquer, if anything.
The experience of love is inextricable from hope. The process of art making with the passage of time and the artist’s experience is a true act of love and hope. That artists may create something outside of themselves and share it with others. It is expressed perhaps as a song, a poem, an act or a painting. But love is hope and that indeed conquers doubt and fear. It is an experience that lives within us, stays with us, and changes over time.