Modern Romance

By Google Arts & Culture

Portrait of a Young Lady, “Marietta Strozzi” (c. 1460) by Ascribed to Desiderio da SettignanoBode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

It’s complicated
Ah, love. Is there any subject we spend more time obsessing about or agonising over? Weren’t the olden days great with their straightforward, simple, drama-free romances? Nope.

Portrait of a Young Lady, “Marietta Strozzi” at Bode Museum

Being embarrassed by your parents is just part of being a teenager, never more so when they’re trying to set you up on a date. So imagine being Marietta Strozzi. Her parents didn’t just drop a few hints about their friends’ eligible sons, they made a marble bust of their 16-year-old daughter and paraded it around 15th century Florence to attract suitors.


Cesar and CleopatraAltes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Green Caesar & Cleopatra the beauty at Altes Museum

A 21-year-old Cleopatra was in the middle of a family feud for the throne of Egypt when Julius Caesar arrived in town to help settle things. She knew what she wanted and she knew exactly what she was going to do to get it: roll herself up in a carpet and get smuggled into his bedroom. And the rest is history.


Amor and Psyche (1854 - 1857) by Reinhold BegasAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Amor and Psyche at Alte Nationalgalerie

If you think your love life is complicated, read the extraordinary story of Cupid and Psyche and you might think again. She was a mortal woman so beautiful that even Venus the goddess of love was jealous of her looks. And that kind of thing never ends well.


Satyr and Hermaphrodite (100/200) by UnknownAltes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Satyr and Hermaphrodite at Altes Museum

One thing that’s become apparent about humans as we gain more self-knowledge is that none of us is 100% anything.


In the Conservatory (1878/1879) by Edouard ManetAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In The Conservatory at Alte Nationalgalerie

This was seen as one of Édouard Manet’s most erotic and scandalous paintings when it first arrived in Berlin in the 1880s. The Empress was shocked. And no wonder! Just look at it. Anything could happen! But before you laugh at the innocence of past times, let’s talk about ambiguity in art…


Majnun among the wild animals' (1420) by Mahmud al-HusayniPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Layla and Majnun at Pergamonmuseum

Tragic love stories are nothing new - even Romeo and Juliet were following a well-trodden road - but this epic poem by 12th Century Persian poet Neẓāmi Ganjavi was such a strong entry in the field that it inspired Eric Clapton to write one of the world’s most famous rock songs about its heroine, Layla, almost 800 years later. And Majnun? Well, that wasn’t even his real name. In fact it’s Arabic for “Madman”. Which shows how well the story ended for Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah.

Credits: Story

Discover more about Modern Romance:
- Love is Blind
- Adam, Eve and The Tortoise

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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