Sunday, April 02, 2006

Love Emblems

Cupid is standing on the tail of a peacock, which is hit by the arrow
of a man; a woman is taking aim with a bow and arrow

A young woman is dancing to the tune played by Cupid

A girl holding some pipes and a tobacco-pouch, stands before Cupid
who is smoking a pipe, seated on a huge ball to which his foot is chained

A prize-ox on parade

Blindfolded cupid with his chest pierced by an arrow is lying
in a big bowl on a stove; a head with a fool's cap and an arm
holding a bauble appears from a pipe at the side of the stove

A young couple look at a satyr who burns himself
when embracing the fire he considers beautiful

A young man and woman are tuning their lutes;
two hearts, tied together, are seen above the table

A cupid is taking aim at a young woman who sleeps against a tree;
behind the tree a spider is lowering himself towards a sleeping snake

This selection of love emblems comes from a 1703 Dutch book - Zinne-beelden der liefde ('something pictures of love') - by Willem den Elger.
"The Zinne-beelden der liefde is a remarkable book because it[s] appearance meant a complete change in the traditional way profane and religious emblems had influenced each other in the seventeenth century. Normally, religious emblem writers followed in the footsteps of paths laid out by profane predecessors. Otto Vaenius published Amorum emblemata before he reworked his own work into a religious variant in the Amoris divinis emblemata, and in Herman Hugo's Pia desidiria and Justus de Harduwijn's Goddelycke wenschen one can recognize many worldly sources.

Den Elger turned this practice around. His Zinne-beelden der liefde is partly indebted to a religious work, Amorum divini et humani effectus. This concept proved to be rather succesful. The fifty emblems of the Zinne-beelden der liefde were printed three times in the eighteenth century, in 1703, 1725 and 1732."
Despite this I would be very surprised if the above images were not derivatives from prior publications one way or another. I just liked the idea of cupid having a smoke.

The multilingual den Elger completed a doctorate in law and published a few text and poem translations. Some of his own prose work was issued by friends after his death. An unhappy love affair is said to have caused him to die aged just 26 ... or so the story goes.

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