Paintings | 16th Century | Elisabetta Sirani | The Triumph of Love | Artwork profile

62 x 74,5 cm
Oil on canvas


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The Triumph of Love

Elisabetta Sirani

The subject
The painting depicts an allegory of the victory of Love over art and war: the ‘putto’, completely ignoring the musical and war instruments that surround him, focuses on lighting the two torches, symbols of victory. Personifying Triumphant Love with a ‘putto’ was highly common in figurative art but equally famous was a different iconography used especially in 15th century painting: Venus and Mars. Numerous artists, including Botticelli, explored this theme in scenes of amorous encounters between these two classic divinities, where the military force of Mars was mitigated by the love and beauty of Venus. Later, however, to make this topic more chaste and suitable for illustrating moral themes, in the late 16th century it became popular to insert the figure of Love embodied as a tiny winged ‘putto’ that triumphs over all things.


The painting
This work represents a stunning example of the pictorial skill of Elisabetta Sirani, as confirmed by Claudio Strinati, who has studied her work extensively. Sirani is one of the most important painters of all time and was an extremely sharp and perceptive pupil of Guido Reni (even if some studies have claimed that she was an indirect follower and admired the works of the great Bolognese master through her father who was also a painter and one of Reni’s students), though she developed her own highly distinctive style, evident in particular in her great talent for drawing and colour. According to Strinati, the work dates from the late period of the artist, who unfortunately died very young and thus was never able to completely develop her full potential. Sirani had a strong sense of modern naturalism and was not immune to the influence of Caravaggio. Of note in her work is how everything is resolved with a sweetness and refinement of execution that imbue it with a distinctive feminine sensibility, much enjoyed by both her contemporaries and art critics over the course of the centuries and which is magnificently demonstrated in this painting.