Fragment of wall painting with a flying Eros
Early Fourth Style, ca. 50 CE
H. 54.5 cm; W 60.5 cm
Gift of Dr. Eli Borowski, in the name of his son Zeev Reuven
Accession number: 73.21.54
The fragment of a wall painting featuring the winged figure of Eros, or Cupid, hovering at the center of a brilliant yellow ground originates from a magnificently decorated villa at Boscotrecase, a suburb of Pompeii, probably excavated at the turn of the twentieth century. It is part of the decoration of a single cubiculum (sleeping chamber); the rest of the decoration now belongs to the collection of the Wuerttembergisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart.
Eros, depicted as a sturdy child, is seen flying toward the right, with the upper part of his body and head turned to the left. He hovers in real space, with a sense of depth created by the torsion of the body, the diagonal lines, and the play of light and shadow on the body and clothes. The fragment's sketchy style, vibrant touches of color emphasizing light and shadow, and free-floating body in a dynamic pose are found frequently in works of the Fourth Style. The quality of the Boscotrecase wall paintings bears witness to the prosperity and taste of the proprietor, as well as to the villa's importance.
Eros appears carrying the club of Hercules, a theme common from the Hellenistic period, symbolizing the power of love to disarm even the strongest adversary. The popularity of this figure in the visual arts of the time suggests that most of these representations had a primarily decorative intent rather than any specific cultic significance. The Romans related to love as a powerful, if generalized emotion, a concept reflected in the poetry of that period. The image of the small child carrying Hercules's attributes recalls Virgil's maxim: omnia vincit Amor (love conquers all). Eros-Amor was thus the ideal image for the decoration of houses, especially of the bedroom.
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir