The Divine Eros Defeats the Earthly Eros by Giovanni Baglione, Circa 1602


  The Divine Eros Defeats the Earthly Eros by Giovanni Baglione, Circa 1602

Baglione’s Eros for the Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani (1544-1621) was a response to the Eros (Amor Vincit Omnia) that Caravaggio had painted for Marchese Vincenzo Giustaniani (1564-1637), the Cardinal’s brother. Caravaggio had drawn a pretty, provocatively naked boy as a youthful god of earthly love to be a victor over the “Liberal Arts”, power and fame. As well as this gave him the features of a boy who had also been a model for religious figures. This was a challenge to his contemporaries’ moral values.

Baglione has Earthly Love thrown to the ground by a divine Eros in armour. A devil with faun’s ears and a trident is crouching bottom left. Antiquity was well aware of the competition between Eros and Anteros for the soul of man. If the two are reconciled, then perfect love is achieved. (Google Art Project)

What is interesting here is the ongoing feud between Caravaggio and Baglione.

Caravaggio accused Baglione of copying his signature style (which one must admit, is apparent in the painting), Baglione responded to Caravaggio by painting the second version of The Eros in which he portrays Caravaggio as the devil (here is a self portrait of Caravaggio if you want to compare). He called this painting (seen below) – Sacred Love and Profane Love (Circa 1602).


The original portrays a devil crouched with his face turned away from the viewer. Baglione’s original also depicts divine Eros’ right hand turned with the palm outward just prior to the final thrust.


Mars Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605-1610


Cupid Chastised or Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605/10. Manfredi was a well known Caravaggisti (a follower of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) – one can see that with the stunning Carravaggio and dramatic use of chiaroscuro lighting.  Also, don’t miss the unmistakeable tones of baroque. A favourite.

The painting was earlier believed to be by an unknown Nordic follower of Caravaggio, and was only attributed to Manfredi as recently as 1972.

I’ve read different interpretations of this painting. Cupid, the son of Mars (god of war) and Venus (goddess of love) being punished for having an incestuous relationship with his mother. The other being Venus (married to Vulcan, the god of fire) has an affair with Mars, who then chastises Venus’s son Cupid for creating the attraction with his arrows. I might be biased, but the most interesting is the interpretation of Manfredi’s painting to portray a scene of homo-erotic sadomasochism. Manfredi, (considered to be a gay man) is believed to have depicted Cupid receiving gratification from Mars’ strikes. If you look closely at the painting, you will notice Cupid does not resist the strikes (limp wrist, unclenched hand, relaxed feet), his young titillating body (the centre of attention and light detail) seems arched in pleasure rather than twisted in pain, and his facial expression portrays ecstasy instead of anguish. Venus, with her bared breast, is considered to be a ploy or a distraction to this interpretation.