Couple Archive

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Francesco Albani, an exponent of the classical ideal, chose a format for his four tondos which, in his own words, “softened” his pictorial expression. The subject matter is taken from Philostratus (Eikones I,6) who describes the games of cupids throughout the four seasons: throwing apples in spring, the fiery furnace of summer, Venus and Adonis taking their farewell in autumn and sleep in winter.

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The painting comes from Ghent’s Abbey of St Peter, where it hung over the fireplace in the kitchen. This monumental painting, with its realistically represented fish, shellfish and crustaceans, has a hidden moral message: distracted by the abundance of good things and their amorous thoughts, the principal figures fail to notice the cutpurse as he surreptitiously goes about his business.

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