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Garofalo, Two Couples with Cupid

Key facts
Full title Two Couples with Cupid
Artist Garofalo
Artist dates about 1481 - 1559
Date made about 1535-45
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 127 × 177.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1362
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Two Couples with Cupid

Two couples recline outdoors in a mountainous landscape – one lies gazing into each other’s eyes, the other embraces. Cupid kneels on the grass clutching his bow and looks at us. A lizard scuttles down the dark tree trunk and a goat – almost hidden in the shadows – nibbles some foliage.

The painting may illustrate a story from mythology or a literary romance. Garofalo worked at Ferrara, and this ambitious composition of about 1535–45, probably a court commission, reflects the influence of the mythological paintings sent to that city by Titian in the late 1510s and early 1520s, such as Bacchus and Ariadne (now in the National Gallery).

When the National Gallery purchased the picture as part of a larger collection in 1860, the director was concerned about the reception of such an erotic painting in a public collection. He sent it to the National Gallery of Scotland, presumably thinking there was a smaller public in Edinburgh and less likelihood of moral outrage reaching the national press. It remained in Edinburgh until 1932.

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