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Paris Bordone, A Pair of Lovers

Key facts
Full title A Pair of Lovers
Artist Paris Bordone
Artist dates 1500 - 1571
Date made 1555-60
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 139.1 × 122 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG637
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Pair of Lovers
Paris Bordone

A young couple sit on the grass in a shady glade. The woman’s hair is unbound, and her dress disturbed. In one hand she holds reed pipes, with the other she either restrains her lover or encourages him to move the crimson cloak over her lap. A naked, winged cupid crowns them with a wreath. A wooden water cask lies next to the man’s thigh and a recorder rests above it.

The painting’s subject is uncertain. The musical instruments and setting suggest this may be a pastoral scene of a shepherd and his lover, but the woman’s clothes are neither plain nor rural. Her chemise is of the finest linen and her dress is made of elaborately patterned silk. Her cloak is of expensive crimson silk velvet.

Perhaps the picture represents a scene from classical mythology or contains a hidden meaning about love, or it may just be an erotic image of a nymph (nature goddess) and her lover.

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