Forbidden Love and it's depiction through Art


Throughout history, art has contained subjects including the scandalous matter of forbidden love. In the popular company of such couples as Romeo and Juliet, and Adam and Eve, artists have focused on this subject for several decades. Included in these are several works by Jean Honore Fragonard, Botticelli, and Rodin. This subject grabs the attention of viewers because of its risque nature, and sauciness. It is different, and not seen every day. Containing a certain degree of drama, forbidden love has and continues to be a staple of subject matter for artists.



The Meeting, Jean Honore Fragonard, 1773
The Meeting, Jean Honore Fragonard, 1773

Jean Honore Fragonard was famous for his frivolous paintings in the Rococo period. Born in 1732 in France, Fragonard was noted for his genre paintings of eroticity and risque nature. Through a series titled, "The Progression of Love", painted for Madame du Barry, the mistress of Henry XV, he depicts several event in the evolution of love. This series was to appear at Louveciennes (the love nest). "The Meeting" was included in this series. Ironically, this piece depicts two lovers secretly meeting. In this piece, the woman is frantically running toward her lover, trying not to be seen. Her lover stands guard awaiting her arrival, and ready to help her over the baracade so they can be with each others company.


The Fall of Man, Albrecht Durer,
The Fall of Man, Albrecht Durer,

The popular biblical narrative of Adam and Eve was taken on by Albrecht Durer in the form of an engraving. In this piece, "The Fall of Man", Durer shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil entwined with the serpent. It retells the story of Adam and Eve betraying God's wishes to satisfy their own sexual desires. This piece stands as source of foreshadow, for they are are about to embark on their lust.



The Swing, Jean Honore Fragonard, 1776
The Swing, Jean Honore Fragonard, 1776

This piece, also by Jean Honore Fragonard, is one of his most famous works. The woman is being pushed on the swing by her husband, who is hidden in the shadows. The young man sitting in the bushes is presumably gazing up her skirt, while the husband is unnaware of this affair. Fragonard has placed many playful, sexual symbols in this piece. The womans young lover is seen with his arm erected, and outstretched toward her. This symbolizes an erection, and serves as a playful jab at their affair.The woman is playfully flinging her shoe at him, as a symbol of the loss of virginity. This piece was a commisioned portrait origianlly for the artist Doyen, but when he refused, the commission was passed on to Fragonard.


Kitagawa Utamora is one of the most famous Japanese woodblock printers of all time. In this piece lovers are seen making love. The woman is a waitress, and the man is a high class business man, which makes this couple extremely forbidden at the time. This piece was all extremely risque and raunchy, considering the subject matter. This couple would not be socially acceptable, therefore making their relationship entirely forbidden.


Poem of the Pillow, Kitagawa Utamaro
Poem of the Pillow, Kitagawa Utamaro


The Burila of Atala, Anne Louis Girodet
The Burila of Atala, Anne Louis Girodet

There's no mistake that Girodet's, Burial of Atala is simply beautiful. It showcases pleasant lighting, and imaging. Both mystic, and enchanting, Girodet's Burial of Atala can surely please many. The story behind it is also appealing. It is derived from François- René de Chateaubriand’s tragic love story, Atala, or the Loves of Two Savages in the Desert. Atala takes a vow of marriage to God and is a devout Christian.Since she is then married to God, and can not have relations with lovers, she can not be with Chactas. When she feels she is falling in love with Chactas, she poisons and kills herself. In this painting, Chactas is seen mourning her body. After her death, Chactas himselfs takes a vow to Christianity.



Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli
Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli

In this piece by the Italian Reanissance master, Sandro Botticelli paints an ode to mythology. Here Venus, the goddess of love is cloathed in a decadent white and gold gown, watching over the sleeping Mars. Mars, the god of war is peacefully sleeping, only in a little white loin cloth. However, Venus, is married to Vulcan, the god of fire. The satyrs are playing with all of his war equipment, while he is doing so. Botticelli uses this subject as a way to show the conquering power of love even in the strongest of men. In the lower right hand corner, one of the satyrs has a piece of datura stramonium, which is said to cause the urge to take ones clothes off in mythology. Many studies are still occuring today to find out exactly what the satyr is holding.


The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, 1889
The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, 1889

In this piece, Rodin focuses on the graceful composition of the lovers. In this piece, the woman who is modeled after Frencesca da Ramini, an Italian nobelwaman immotalized in Dante's Inferno, falls in love with her husband, Giovanni Malatesta's, brother. While the brother also falls in love with her, they secretly meet to be with eachother. Francesca's husband soon finds out about the affair, and has them both killed.



Whether in literature, or through art, forbidden love is always present to make a dramtic statement. Scandalous in nature, it is sure to attract attention and controversey. As seen in the workd of Fragonard, Botticelli, and Durer, forbidden love was a staple to European art. Extending beyond Europe, it was also evident in the Japanese culture with Utamaro's series. One hundred years ago, and one hundred years into the future, forbidden will and always has found its way into art history.


Works Cited


Albrecht Durer
: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/durer/

Auguste Rodin:

http://www.rodinmuseum.org/

Girodet's, Burial of Atala

: http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=836

Jean Honore Fragonard

: http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/fragonard_jean-honore.html

Kitagawa Utamaro:

http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/utamaro_kitagawa.html