The art of romance: objects of affection in our collection
Throughout history, countless artists have been drawn to the emotional highs and lows of love, inspired by tragic tales of doomed lovers and unrequited passion or uplifting romances of all-conquering true love. Step into this intoxicating world through this selection of objects in our collections inspired by love.
Rex Whistler (1905-1944) painted many pictures of the love of his life Lady Caroline Paget of Plas Newydd, Anglesey. This one is titled ‘The Girl with a Red Rose’. Sadly, his love went unrequited.
A gift from the heart
This book of specially commissioned poems at Tyntesfield, Bristol, was given to Julie d’Angeness by the marquis de Montausier. In love with her since 1631, he had to wait 14 years to marry her.
Love conquers all
In 1825, when Mary Anne Bullock was a 20-year-old dairy maid, she married 70-year-old Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark. Despite social prejudice, their union lasted until Harry’s death in 1846.
After the Reformation, mourning rings became a popular way to remember loved ones after their death. Many, like this one from Wallington, Northumberland, bore the name of the deceased.
James Tissot (1836-1902) made his mistress, Kathleen Newton, the subject of almost all of his pictures during their affair. After her death, he continued to paint her and even tried contacting her at seances.
Forbidden passion and doomed lovers
This sculptural relief at Nostell, Yorkshire, shows Paolo and Francesca, the doomed lovers from Dante's 'Divine Comedy', swept along in an eternal whirlwind in the second circle of hell for their adultery.
Sir John Lavery's alluring portrait of Violet Keppel at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, was made during Violet’s tempestuous affair with Vita Sackville-West and at a time when such romances were suppressed.
Dying for love
The Greek myth of Hero and Leander is told in a set of five 17th-century tapestries at Hardwick Hall. The tragic tale ends with Leander drowning whilst swimming to his lover and Hero, distraught, killing herself.
Love and loss
Legend has it that Cleopatra committed suicide by an asp’s bite after the defeat of her armies and the death of her lover Mark Antony. Seven leather wall panels at Dunster Castle, Somerset, tell the tale.
" 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."