Blanton Museum presents gallery talk on love and Cupid in paintings

Mark Carrion

In honor of Valentine’s Day, people had the opportunity to see love — quite literally.

The Blanton Museum of Art’s Perspectives Gallery Talk held a talk titled “Images of Love,” featuring Blanton curatorial associate Catherine Zinser, who led a group of around 30 people through the galleries of the museum while explaining aspects of love in several works of art.

The talk focused on the mythological character Cupid. Zinser said Cupid often has an unexplained presence in several paintings.

“[Cupid is] a very minor character in mythology,” she said. “Having a little bit more background information on this mythological character can help you interpret the stories.”

Zinser said Cupid is the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and is usually depicted as a young boy with wings and bows and arrows. Zinser also distinguished Cupid from cherubim, who she said were originally winged biblical angels with four heads. Cupid’s attendants, who are usually painted as babies, are called putti and typically symbolize sacred love, Zinser said. 

Throughout the tour, Zinser explained the role of Cupid as an indicator of the type of love depicted in works of art. She said the presence of Cupid and putti around female figures like Venus gave artists a pretext for rendering sensual images, as the characters symbolized pure love rather than profane love — making women the subject of beauty rather than desire in paintings. 

Adam Bennett, manager of public programs at the Blanton Museum, oversees the gallery talks, which are held every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Bennett said the talks are a good opportunity to showcase different collections throughout the museum to the public.

“I want to help connect people in the community to the visual art,” he said. 

Zinser said the gallery talks help her appreciate the art as well.

“There is nothing like looking at art in person,” Zinser said. “It helps us understand these things within ourselves.”

UT alumnus Daniel Reyes said he was inspired by the thought behind the artwork and the various roles Cupid plays in art. Reyes said the talk was both educational and personal.

“It’s a reminder of how love has been depicted over ages in art,” he said. “Love is such an important thing in life, and this is a reminder of the beauty of that.”

Published as "Blanton presents talk on love in paintings".