Art, Art & Archives, Education, J. Paul Getty Museum, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Question of the Week: Can Love Last Forever?

Can love outlast death?

Love and desire sizzle in this sculpture showcasing Venus and Adonis. Venus is desperately in love with Adonis, a handsome mortal. However, fate has it that goddess of love will not hold onto her man. Preferring the hunt, Adonis is injured by a wild boar and dies—take that, Adonis, for leaving her! An anemone flower sprouts from his blood, symbolizing eternal love.

Venus and Adonis / Massimiliano Soldani Benzi

Venus and Adonis (detail), Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, bronze, about 1700. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 93.SB.4

Artist Soldani-Benzi transforms bronze into flesh full of movement, emotion, and suffering, demonstrating the technical virtuosity that made him one of the finest sculptors of Baroque Florence.

What do you think: Is there such a thing as immortal love, even among mortals? And if love fades in our real lives, does it last in art?

Question of the Week is a series inspired by our Masterpiece of the Week tours. Featuring an open and upbeat discussion among visitors and gallery teachers, the tours feature a new object and pose a new question each week. Soldani-Benzi’s Venus and Adonis is the object for the week of August 16, 2011.

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  1. Gabe
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post, Nancy. I must say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So too, I guess, is whether or not it lasts. Although I’ve had my share of breakups, I don’t think art ever loses Love. I will say though, what’s up with the boar getting to Adonis? Is there symbolism there? What a great piece by Soldani-Benzi!

    • Posted August 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Hi Gabe. I agree that art never loses love. I’m inclined to believe that art is immortal, as seems to be the case with Benzi’s magnificent sculpture (it is almost 400 years old). Regarding the hunt, Venus warned Adonis with these words, “Beware how you expose yourself to danger and put my happiness at risk. Attack not the beasts that Nature has armed with weapons ….” The boar’s attack is a result of Adonis not heeding Venus’s words.

  2. Christiana
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Love definitely can die, and frequently does. But can it live forever, in art, literature, maybe even life? Yes, I believe so. This sculpture is so vivid, it’s hard to imagine that it’s over 300 years old. And Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” was almost 1,700 years old when this sculpture was created. Ideas and ideals last forever, even though they assume different guises.

    One interesting aspect of this story in Ovid’s version is that Venus falls in love with Adonis because she was shot with Cupid’s arrow. So is the artist saying that undying love is, in a sense, unnatural? Humans have a tendency to forget, to stray, to fall out of love, to reinvent ourselves. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, if you compare it to the alternative.

  3. Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    For sure love can last forever. I don’t thing it fades but perhaps converts. It just goes from crazy love, puppy love, “you can do no wrong” love to comfort and yet passionate love if a couple works on it.

    My partner and I have been together for 13 years now and we love each other. I can’t imagine not being with her but we do have to work through things and don’t expect perfection but also don’t throw our hands up in the air and give up when confronted with something tough.

    This beautiful sculptor captures a moment/emotion in time. Wonder what their love result would have been if they had to live the life of mortals.

  4. Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Love can die in real life but Art is an expression of that undying…lets’ say illusions of life! Thus Art is forever!

  5. Henry Crokfest
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, i find it hard for something to last … like, forever. It has to ended at some time. Love can exist for a bit longer in art and literature but well, there are arguments if the love depicted in literature and art is truly real.

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      Gold snake bracelet, worn on the wrist

      Romano-Egyptian, 3rd - 2nd century B.C. 

      Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum

      In the Hellenistic period, gold made available by new territorial conquests flooded the Greek world. 

      Combined with social and economic changes that created a wealthy clientele with a taste for luxury, this availability led to an immense outpouring of gold jewelry to meet the demand.

      Here’s a closer view of the detailing of the cross-hatching.


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