The exhibition “Famous Lovers” was held in the Monastery from 14th February 2011 until 3rd August 2011. A Trivia Treasure Hunt about the exhibition “Famous Lovers” was offered to visitors.
A special thank to Alexia Carnell and Alexicon Kurka for their donation.
Aphrodite and Adonis
Adonis was the young lover of Venus. He was gored by a wild boar in the hunt and died in her arms after she came to him when hearing his groans. Upon death, she sprinkled his blood with nectar; and the short-lived windflower, anemone, which takes its name from the wind which so easily makes it fall, was produced.
The Awakening of Adonis, John William Waterhouse , circa 1900, Oil on canvas, Size: 95.9 x 188 cm, private collection
Benjamin West, Venus Lamenting the Death of Adonis, 1768 (retouched 1819), oil on canvas, H: 163 x W: 177 cm, Carnegie Museum of Arts
Orpheus and Eurydice
The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice (also known as Agriope). While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and she suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.
Orpheus and Eurydice, Frederick Leighton, 1864, oil on canvas,127 x 109.2 cm, Leighton House Museum
Object: AK Ancient Greek Lyra 1.01, AKoustic ANcient Greek Instrument, Alexicon Kurka
Eros and Psyche
Envious and jealous of the beauty of a mortal girl named Psyche, Venus asks her son Cupid (known to the Greeks as Eros) to use his golden arrows while Psyche sleeps, so that when she awakens, Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks) would have already placed a vile creature for her to fall in love with. When all continue to admire and praise Psyche’s beauty, but none desire her as a wife, Psyche’s parents consult an oracle, which tells them to leave Psyche on the nearest mountain, for her beauty is so great that she is not meant for (mortal) man. Terrified, they have no choice but to follow the oracle’s instructions. But then Zephyrus, the west wind, carries Psyche away, to a fair valley and a magnificent palace where she is attended by invisible servants until nightfall, and in the darkness of night the promised bridegroom arrives and the marriage is consummated. Cupid visits her every night to sleep with her, but demands that she never light any lamps, since he does not want her to know who he is until the time is right.
Cupid allows Zephyrus to take Psyche back to her sisters and bring all three down to the palace during the day, but warns that Psyche should not listen to any argument that she should try to discover his true form. The two jealous sisters tell Psyche, then pregnant with Cupid’s child, that rumor is that she had married a great and terrible serpent who would devour her and her unborn child when the time came for it to be fed. They urge Psyche to conceal a knife and oil lamp in the bedchamber, to wait till her husband is asleep, and then to light the lamp and slay him at once if it is as they said. Psyche sadly follows their advice. In the light of the lamp Psyche recognizes the fair form on the bed as the god Cupid himself. However, she accidentally pricks herself with one of his arrows, and is consumed with desire for her husband. She begins to kiss him, but as she does, a drop of oil falls from her lamp onto Cupid’s shoulder and wakes him. He flies away, and she falls from the window to the ground, sick at heart.
Psyche searches far and wide for her lover. Psyche finds a temple to Venus and enters it. Venus then orders Psyche to separate all the grains in a large basket of mixed kinds before nightfall. An ant takes pity on Psyche, and with its ant companions, separates the grains for her.
Venus is outraged at her success and tells her to go to a field where golden sheep graze and to retrieve some golden wool. A river-god tells Psyche that the sheep are vicious and strong and will kill her, but if she waits until noontime, the sheep will go to the shade on the other side of the field and sleep; she can then pick the wool that sticks to the branches and bark of the trees. Venus next asks for water flowing from a cleft that is impossible for a mortal to attain and is also guarded by great serpents. This time an eagle performs the task for Psyche.
Venus, furious at Psyche’s survival, claims that the stress of caring for her son, made depressed and ill as a result of Psyche’s lack of faith, has caused her to lose some of her beauty. Psyche is to go to the Underworld and ask the queen of the Underworld, Proserpina (Persephone to the Greeks), to place a bit of her beauty in a box that Venus had given to Psyche. Once Psyche has left the Underworld, she decides to open the box and take a little bit of the beauty for herself. Inside, she can see no beauty; instead an infernal sleep arises from the box and overcomes her. Cupid (Eros), who had forgiven Psyche, flies to her, wipes the sleep from her face, puts it back in the box, and sends her back on her way. Then Cupid flies to Mount Olympus and begs Jupiter (Zeus) to aid them. Jupiter calls a full and formal council of the gods and declares that it is his will that Cupid marry Psyche. Jupiter then has Psyche fetched to Mount Olympus, and gives her a drink made from ambrosia, granting her immortality. Begrudgingly, Venus and Psyche forgive each other.
Psyche and Cupid have a daughter, called Voluptas (Hedone in Greek mythology), the goddess of “sensual pleasures”, whose Latin name means “pleasure” or “bliss”.
Psyche opening the golden box, John William Waterhouse, 1903, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, 74cm x 117cm
Object: Bow and arrow, Eric Linden
Penelope and Odysseus
Penelope is the wife of Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman mythology), the king of Ithaca. She only has one son by Odysseus, Telemachus, who was born just before Odysseus was called to fight in the Trojan War. She waits twenty years for the final return of her husband, during which she has a hard time snubbing marriage proposals from odious suitors. She has devised tricks to delay her suitors, one of which is to pretend to be weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’s elderly father Laertes and claiming that she will choose a suitor when she has finished. Every night for three years, she undoes part of the shroud, until Melantho, one of twelve unfaithful serving women, discovers her chicanery and reveals it to the suitors.
On Odysseus’s return, disguised as an old beggar, he finds that Penelope has remained faithful. Because of her efforts to put off remarriage, Penelope is often seen as a symbol of connubial fidelity.
Ulysse has met other women on his way back to Ithaca. Calypso kept Odysseus hostage at Ogygia for seven years. Odysseus, however, wants to return home to his beloved wife Penelope. His patron goddess Athena asks Zeus to order the release of Odysseus from the island, and Zeus sends Hermes to tell Calypso to set Odysseus free. Calypso bore Odysseus two children, Nausithous and Nausinous. In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe invited Odysseus’ crew to a feast of familiar food, a pottage of cheese and meal, sweetened with honey and laced with wine, but also laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted by Hermes. Hermes told Odysseus to use the holy herb “moly” to protect himself from Circe’s potion. Odysseus followed Hermes’s advice, freeing his men. Odysseus and his men remained on the island for one year feasting and drinking wine. Circe suggested to Odysseus the way to return to Ithaca. In Book Six of the Odyssey, Odysseus is shipwrecked on the coast of Phaeacia. Nausicaa and her father’s servants go to the sea-shore to wash clothes. Odysseus emerges from the forest completely naked, scaring the servants away, and begs Nausicaa for aid. Nausicaa gives Odysseus some of the laundry to wear, and takes him to the edge of the town. Realizing that Odysseus being seen with her might cause rumors, she and the servants go ahead into town. But first she advises Odysseus to go directly to Alcinous’ house and make his case to Nausicaa’s mother, Arete. Arete is known as wiser even than Alcinous, and Alcinous trusts her judgments. Odysseus approaches Arete, wins her approval, and is received as a guest by Alcinous. Nausicaa is young and very pretty; Homer gives a literary account of love never expressed: while she is presented as a potential love interest to Odysseus – she says to her friend that she would like her husband to be like him, and her father tells Odysseus he would let him marry her – nothing really results between the pair.
Penelope and the Suitors, John William Waterhouse, , Oil on canvas, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, Actual Size (W x H): 188cm x 130cm
Nausicaa, Frederick Leighton, 1878, Oil on canvas, (145 x 67 cm), Private collection
Object: Roman Ladies Chair, Kittie Munro
Tristan and Iseult
After defeating the Irish knight Morholt, Tristan goes to Ireland to bring back the fair Iseult for his uncle King Mark to marry. Along the way, they ingest a love potion that causes the pair to fall madly in love. In the “courtly” version, the potion’s effects last for a lifetime; in the “common” versions, however, the potion’s effects wane after three years. Also, in some versions, they ingest the potion accidentally; in others, the potion’s maker instructs Iseult to share it with Mark, but she deliberately gives it to Tristan instead, who is unaware of what is happening. Although Iseult marries Mark, she and Tristan are forced by the potion to seek one another out for adultery.
Tristan and Isolde sharing the portion, John William Waterhouse, 1916, Oil on canvas, Private Collection, 81cm x 109cm
Tristan and Isolde, Herbert James Draper, 1901, Private collection
Lancelot and Guinevere
Guinevere was the legendary queen consort of King Arthur. In tales and folklore, she was said to have had a love affair with Arthur’s chief knight Sir Lancelot. This story first appears in Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, and reappears as a common motif in numerous cyclical Arthurian literature, starting with the Lancelot-Grail Cycle of the early 13th century and carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
Lancelot and Guinevere, Herbert-James-Draper, date: unspecified, Oil on canvas, Private collection
Antony and Cleopatra
After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Cleopatra aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself with poisonous snakes on August 12, 30 BC.
• Plutarch’s Life of Marcus Antonius
• Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607, that follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra’s suicide.
Antony and Cleopatra, Lawrence Alma Tadema,(1883, Oil on panel. 65.5 x 92 cm) , private collection
Tribute to Liz Tailor (picture)
Queen’s Throne 2, Elgyfu Wishbringer, Monastery Collection
Pyrame and Thisbe
In the Ovidian version, Pyramus and Thisbe is the story of two lovers in the city of Babylon who occupy connected houses/walls, forbidden by their parents to be wed, because of their parents’ rivalry. Through a crack in one of the walls, they whisper their love for each other. They arrange to meet near at Ninus’ tomb under a mulberry tree and state their feelings for each other. Thisbe arrives first, but upon seeing a lioness with a mouth bloody from a recent kill, she flees, leaving behind her veil. The lioness drinks from a nearby fountain, then by chance mutilates the veil Thisbe had left behind. When Pyramus arrives, he is horrified at the sight of Thisbe’s veil, assuming that a fierce beast had killed her. Pyramus kills himself, falling on his sword in proper Roman fashion, and in turn splashing blood on the white mulberry leaves. Pyramus’ blood stains the white mulberry fruits, turning them dark. Thisbe returns, eager to tell Pyramus what had happened to her, but she finds Pyramus’ dead body under the shade of the mulberry tree. Thisbe, after a brief period of mourning, stabs herself with the same sword. In the end, the gods listen to Thisbe’s lament, and forever change the colour of the mulberry fruits into the stained colour to honour the forbidden love.
Thisbe, by John William Waterhouse, 1909, 58.5cm x 96.5cm, private collection
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young “star-cross’d lovers” whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families.
Romeo and Juliet, Ford Madox Brown, 1870, Oil on canvas, Wilmington, USA
The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet, Lord Leighton Frederic, 1853-55
Sarcophage, Baron Grayson, Monastery Collection (on display in the Crypt)
Reconstitution of the Balcon of Juliette in Verona (with original texture), Arria Perreault, Monastery Collection
Every love story is unique and wonderful. If you visit this exhibtion with your partner, you are a part of it.
Object: Bench with kiss animation, Monastery Collection
Biographies of the artists
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 -1912 ) was one o f t h e most renowned painters of late nineteenth-century Britain . A classical-subject painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. Though admired during his lifetime for his draftsmanship and depictions of Classical antiquity, his work fell into disrepute after his death, and only since the 1960s has it been reevaluated for its importance within nineteenth-century English art.
Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 1893) was an English painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his Pre-Raphaelite style.
Herbert James Draper (1863 – 1920) was an English Classicist painter.
Sir Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896) was an English painter and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical and classical subject matter.
John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917) was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter who is most famous for his depictions of female characters from Greek and Arthurian mythology. Waterhouse was one of the final Pre-Raphaelite artists, being most productive in the latter decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th, long after the era of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Because of this, he has been referred to as “the modern Pre-Raphaelite”, and incorporated techniques borrowed from the French Impressionists into his work.
Benjamin West, RA (1738 – 1820) was an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence.
Summary of the play “Romeo and Julietta” by Shakespeare
The play, set in Verona, begins with a street brawl between Montague and Capulet supporters who are sworn enemies. The Prince of Verona intervenes and declares that further breach of the peace will be punishable by death. Later, Count Paris talks to Capulet about marrying his daughter, but Capulet is wary of the request because Juliet is only thirteen. Capulet asks Paris to wait another two years and invites him to attend a planned Capulet ball. Lady Capulet and Juliet’s nurse try to persuade Juliet to accept Paris’s courtship.
Meanwhile, Benvolio talks with his cousin Romeo, Lord Montague’s son, about Romeo’s recent depression. Benvolio discovers that it stems from unrequited infatuation for a girl named Rosaline, one of Capulet’s nieces. Persuaded by Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo attends the ball at the Capulet house. However, Romeo instead meets and falls in love with Juliet. After the ball, in what is now called the “balcony scene”, Romeo sneaks into the Capulet courtyard and overhears Juliet on her balcony vowing her love to him in spite of her family’s hatred of the Montagues. Romeo makes himself known to her and they agree to be married. With the help of Friar Laurence, who hopes to reconcile the two families through their children’s union, they are secretly married the next day.
Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, incensed that Romeo had sneaked into the Capulet ball, challenges him to a duel. Romeo, now considering Tybalt his kinsman, refuses to fight. Mercutio is offended by Tybalt’s insolence, as well as Romeo’s “vile submission,” and accepts the duel on Romeo’s behalf. Mercutio is fatally wounded when Romeo attempts to break up the fight. Grief-stricken and wracked with guilt, Romeo confronts and slays Tybalt.
Montague argues that Romeo has justly executed Tybalt for the murder of Mercutio. The Prince, now having lost a kinsman in the warring families’ feud, exiles Romeo from Verona and declares that if Romeo returns, “that hour is his last.” Romeo secretly spends the night in Juliet’s chamber, where they consummate their marriage. Capulet, misinterpreting Juliet’s grief, agrees to marry her to Count Paris and threatens to disown her when she refuses to become Paris’s “joyful bride.” When she then pleads for the marriage to be delayed, her mother rejects her.
Juliet visits Friar Laurence for help, and he offers her a drug that will put her into a death-like coma for “two and forty hours.” The Friar promises to send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan, so that he can rejoin her when she awakens. On the night before the wedding, she takes the drug and, when discovered apparently dead, she is laid in the family crypt.
The messenger, however, does not reach Romeo and, instead, he learns of Juliet’s apparent death from his servant Balthasar. Heartbroken, Romeo buys poison from an apothecary and goes to the Capulet crypt. He encounters Paris who has come to mourn Juliet privately. Believing Romeo to be a vandal, Paris confronts him and, in the ensuing battle, Romeo kills Paris. Still believing Juliet to be dead, he drinks the poison. Juliet then awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger. The feuding families and the Prince meet at the tomb to find all three dead. Friar Laurence recounts the story of the two “star-cross’d lovers”. The families are reconciled by their children’s deaths and agree to end their violent feud. The play ends with the Prince’s elegy for the lovers: “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”