Eros is a transliteration of the Greek word meaning "sexual love". It is also the name of the classical Greek God of love, who was (in some versions) the son of Aphrodite and either Ares or Hephaestus. In other, earlier, versions of Greek mythology, Eros is seen as a primeval deity who emerged from the primordial Chaos. The god Eros was equated to the Roman Cupid (whose name means "desire", the son of Venus), and the mythological figure is most often known by the Roman name in modern popular culture. An alternate name for Cupid is Amor ("love").
The word "eros" is the root of erotic. Today the term is sometimes used to mean anything having to do with sex or sexuality; and sometimes in the more specific sense of "sexual love".
Eros/Cupid/Amor is typically depicted as an attractive little boy with a bow and arrows, although classic Greek images of Eros most often show him as a teenager just entering into full manhood. The image of Cupid as a young boy or an infant is due to Roman sources, and became conventional in medieval and Renaissance art, a convention that has persisted into modern times.
Eros/Cupid/Amor is often given wings, too. However it should be noted that he is a (pagan) God and not an angel, even if he may look similar to putti (often wrongly called cherubs when used to depict child angels) in many sculptures and paintings. Indeed the traditional western imagery for putti is derived from Roman depictions of Cupid.
Study for "A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
"The Cupid Seller" by Joseph-Marie Vien (1763).
"Le Sauvetage" (The Rescue) by Emile Munier (1894).
"Aphrodite and Eros" (1917) by Henri Camille Danger (1857-1937).
Occasionally there are many Eros/Amor figures found in one work of art. These are called Erotes or Amorini, or in later cases simply putti.
The motif of Punished Cupid
Eros/Cupid/Amor is known as an often mischievous boy and so the motif of him getting punished has come about. His punishment is often corporal (his bare bottom inviting such), and sometimes involves taking away or breaking his bow and arrows.
The person who punishes him is typically his mother (the Goddess Aphrodite in the case of Greek art, and Venus in the case of Roman art). Occasionally a male God assumes the role of the chastiser too: for example, Bartolomeo Manfredi painted a work Mars chastising Cupid, and the 19th century cartoonist Wilhelm Busch picked up the subject in his picture story Silen. The motif of Punished Cupid goes back to Antiquity (see e.g. the Pompeijan fresco below), and had a revival in Renaissance art.
The motif is related to (and often shown in combination with) the motif of Cupid Disarmed (French: "L'Amour desarmé") in which cupid's bow and arrows are taken away from him (and sometimes broken). It is also related to the motif of clipping Cupid's wings.
The reason why Cupid is punished can generally be assumed to be that he disobliged the person who punishes him by making him or her fall in love with someone else (via shooting his arrow). The message is that falling in love is not always a welcome thing. For example, in Mars chastising Cupid, Cupid has made the God of War fall in love with Venus, the Goddess of love. This is obviously unnatural, and could unman Mars and make him soft and vulnerable. In retaliation, he is beating Cupid. But Cupid can be interpreted as the inner feminine nature of Mars. Thus, he castigates himself for having fallen in love with Venus, which could represent any and all of the feminine side of life.
In many images of the 17th and 18th century, Venus chastises Cupid with roses or other flowers.
Venus chastising Cupid. Engraving after Francesco Mazzola, called Parmigianino (c. 1550).
Venus spanking Cupid, etching from the end of the 16th century.
"Venus Punishing Profane Love, from the Lascivie" by Agostino Carracci (Italian artist, 1557-1602).
"Venus Chastising Cupid" by Jan van Bijlert (1628).
Venus is bound to a tree and Cupid is punished by Minerva (c. 1586 - c. 1632).
"Scola d'Amore" (School of Amor) by Pierre Scalberge (c. 1592 - 1640).
Venus Chastising Cupid in a Landscape (Reinier van der Laeck, 1640).
Painting by Herman Cornelis at Nienoord castle, Netherlands (1679).
Giovanni Luigi Valesio, Venus whipping Cupid with Roses (17th century).
Venus Chastising Cupid (Jean-Marc Nattier, 1717).
Minerva Chastising Cupid for Disturbing the Arts and Sciences in Their Studies, Johann George Böhm the elder (1673-1746).
L'Amour Chatie par sa Mère ("Cupid chastised by his mother", Philippe de Tubières Comte de Caylus, 1692-1765).
Benigno Bossi (1727-1792).
Johann Adam Schweickart (1722-1787).
Punition de l'Amour ("Punishment of Cupid", Jacques Bouillard, 1744-1806).
The Chastisement Of Cupid by Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754–1829).
Silen chastises Amor (Wilhelm Busch, 1878).
Illustration by Jim Black from the novel Poker de Dames (1929).
Cupid as a spanker
The motif of Cupid as a spanker (usually of a woman) is found in some spanking novel illustrations.
Illustration by Gaston Noury from the novel Les Cinglades passionnées by Carlo Albérica (1911).
Illustration by Jim Black from the novel Les Confidences d'un baronnet by A. W. Flogger (1929).
The story of Cupid and Psyche
In a Graeco-Roman story that was rediscovered in the Renaissance, the daughter of a King and Queen named Psyche ("Soul") was so beautiful that she became a threat to Venus. Venus sends Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with something hideous. However Cupid scratches himself with his own dart and falls in love with Psyche himself. In the complicated course of the story, Psyche is whipped and tortured by Venus's handmaids. Eventually in a happy ending, Cupid and Psyche get married. The story of Cupid and Psyche inspired much art and literature, such as several paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
"Amour and Psyche, children" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873).
"Psyche and Eros", artwork by Spankart (2012).
- Eros on Wikipedia
- Eros (mythology) on Wikipedia
- Cupid on Wikipedia
- Cupid and Psyche on Wikipedia
- eros in Wiktionary
- Eros in Wiktionary
- Category:Venus and Cupid on Wikimedia Commons
- Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911), L'amour Blesse (Love Hurts) (too realistic for our image policy, so not uploadable)
- Venus Chastising Cupid (1638, F/m) by Francesco Susini (1585 – 1653)
- Diana taking away Amor's bow, painting by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708 – 1787)
- Venus Chastising Cupid, marble sculpture (F/m) attributed to Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716 – 1791)
- Cupid Chastised, sculpture by Gustav Eberlein (1847 – 1926)
- Venus chastising Cupid, bronze sculpture (F/m) by Pallez Lucien (1853 – 1931?)
- Venus spanking Cupid, porcelain figurine (also on Handprints)
- L'Amour puni, vintage photo (F/m)
- Cupid gets spanked on artspanking.com