Jacob van Loo
Dutch, 1614 ‑ 1670
An Allegory of Venus and Cupid, 1654
Oil on canvas
47 7/8 × 34 1/2 in. (121.6 × 87.6 cm.)
Gift of the Charter Collectors and gift of Mrs. Hattie Bishop Speed, George E. Gage, The Art Center Association, Signora Agnese Buzzi,
Mrs. Margaret Bridwell, Sallie Underhill Kemper, in honor of Evelina Shreve Underhill, Robert A. Hendrickson, Jean de Botton, Caroline Cooper, Mrs. Credo Harris, John Greenebaum, Miss Mary Elizabeth Michel, and bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler, by exchange  1993.16

What’s the Backstory?
The artist has included several hidden images in this painting warning of the folly of earthly pleasures. How does he convey this message? Let’s decode the painting. Venus, the goddess of love, reclines on a bed and turns to gaze at her son Cupid, who sits astride a globe. He holds a soap bubble, representing the Latin proverb homo bulla (“man is like a bubble”), which alludes to the brevity, or shortness, of human life. Look at the jewelry and luxurious silver and gilt objects in disarray in the foreground, and you’ll notice an overturned lute. Van Loo is suggesting that, like a bubble that quickly bursts, or music that rapidly fades, the pleasures of love and worldly possessions are only temporary.