Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Omnia Vincit Amor, or The Power of Love in the Three Elements

Artist:
Benjamin West (American, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 1738–1820 London)
Date:
1809
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
70 3/8 x 80 1/2 in. (178.8 x 204.5 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
95.22.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774
"Omnia vincit Amor," (Love triumphs over everything) is a quotation from Virgil’s Eclogues. Venus, the goddess of love, is shown at the left with her attributes the doves and with her small son, Amor, armed with bow and arrows, clinging to her draperies. A young deity, presumably Hymen, god of marriage, brandishes a flaming torch with his right hand and grasps in his left cords that leash an eagle. The eagle symbolizes all the creatures living in the element Air, a hippocampus stands for those of the Water, and a lion for those on Earth. The fourth element, Fire, is implicit in the goddess herself, in the winged Amores, or little Loves, and most particularly in Hymen’s flaming torch.
Signature: [at lower right]: B. West-- 1809--
the artist, until 1820; his sons, Raphael West and Benjamin West Jr., 1820–1829; sale, George Robins, London, 25 May 1829, no. 143; Henry Bone, 1829–1834; his son, Henry P. Bone; sale, Christie's, London, 12 Mar. 1847, no. 124; with W. (I.?) Smith, London, 1847; held by Arthur E. S. Seguin, Philadelphia, by 1851–died 1852; held by his wife, Ann Childe Seguin, New York, 1852–died 1888; held by her daughter, Maria C. Seguin, New York, 1888–died ?; her nephew's widow, Clara (Mrs. Edward S. R.) Seguin, New York, by 1923
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