By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies. Please read our Use of Cookies policy.

Close

From Adam and Eve to Tracey Emin, love and desire are a foundation of both life and art. Most Greek and Roman myths, the source of many historic paintings, are about love and desire, jealousy and lust. Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods, for example, took many forms to seduce goddesses and mortals, as a swan, a bull and a shower of gold. Cupid, the god of love, is everywhere.

Western religions tried to contain erotic love within marriage – see Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait – but art and literature treat the subject more openly. Seventeenth-century Dutch treatments of illicit domestic romance were followed by more decorous nineteenth-century versions: Haynes King’s Jealousy and Flirtation is a typical example.