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The Dutch Love Emblem (5/54)

Emblem 112 from Alciato's Emblematum liber, edition 1591, Leiden. Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag, 1703 G 25 The love emblem derived its specific form from a genre that had been around for a while. The very first emblem book, Emblematum liber by Andrea Alciato, originated in Italy in 1531.

In that very first book, the theme of 'love' was hardly given any attention in comparison to other themes. This becomes apparent when taking into account that in Alciato's book, Cupid plays a minor role. For instance, Cupid only appears in emblem 112. On the adjoining pictura, you can see Cupid complaining to his mother, Venus, about being stung by bees. The fact that it is he, Cupid, that was stung is meant to be ironic.

Initially, the mottoes and subscriptiones were mostly written in Latin. However, when the emblematic genre spread from Italy to Western Europe, languages such as French, Spanish, English and Dutch were then also common practice.

Although the languages might sometimes vary, the combination of texts and pictorial elements, together with its moralistic character, remained. That is to say, emblems always contained a wise lesson for the reader about a wide variety of virtues and duties concerning (Christian) life.