Object Image

This is one of a series of four paintings by Veronese that concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear. The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the pictures were intended for a series of ceilings.

Cupid drags a man in military costume by his phallic sword hilt towards a naked woman sleeping on a bed. Cupid's golden arrow points rather crudely to the woman's genitals, which are concealed by the red cloth over her leg. However, the man's companion pulls him away by his arm.

The man's contorted pose suggests his dilemma - he is being pulled in two different directions at the same time. The title 'Respect' is not original and was only given to the painting in 1727, but it may be that the man decides to resist temptation out of respect for the woman because she is asleep.

These four paintings by Veronese concern the trials and rewards of love, although their precise meanings remain unclear and have been much debated. The titles are not original and were given to the paintings in 1727. The scenes are not necessarily meant to go in any particular order.

The compositions are designed to be seen from below, so we know the paintings were intended for a ceiling or a series of ceilings. The lower parts of the compositions seem to have been cut, and in several cases the feet of the figures are not visible. These features are disconcerting when the pictures are hung on a wall. The composition of each painting forms a strong diagonal, which would help relate the paintings to each other on a ceiling. We do not know who commissioned them, but it may have been a wealthy patron in Venice or one of the Holy Roman Emperors.

Credit: Presented by Lord Darnley, 1891

c. 1575
Oil on canvas
186.1 x 194.3cm
NG1325
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

Where you'll find this

National Gallery