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New Met Exhibit Looks at Eros in Time for Valentine's Day

By DNAinfo Staff on February 5, 2013 5:34pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — Love is tuckered out. 

A new special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on display in time for Valentine's Day is offering a historic look at The Greek god of erotic love.

The exhibit, "Sleeping Eros," includes some forty six works portraying the powerful deity in a peaceful position — as an innocent curly-headed kid who prefer naps to his earlier depictions as an impish hyperactive teen. 

The pieces mark a drastic shift in the depiction of Eros over time — known later to the Romans as Cupid — said Seán Hemingway, Greek and Roman art curator at the Met. 

Earlier examples during the Hellenic period between approximately 300 and 500 B.C. show the god sweeping into action alone or joining forces with love and beauty goddess Aphrodite, Hemingway said.

Strong interest in scholarship that characterized the Hellenistic period after 300 until approximately 600 B.C., however, prompted Eros to be depicted with psychological depth.

"There was a great interest in exploring intellectual themes," Hemingway said. 

The centerpiece of this new exhibition — a Bronze statue of sleeping Eros — also exemplifies technological and aesthetic advances characteristic of Hellenistic culture. 

Hemingway pointed to statue's complex tendrils, detailed drapery, and relative smoothness.

Though the bronze was cast in seven pieces, Hemingway said, there are virtually no visible seams in the statue, an impressive feat givent ancient limitations on metallurgy, Hemingway said.

"One of the hardest things in antiquity was maintaining that heat," he said.  

Though Eros has undergone some changes throughout the ages, there seems to be a fairly common theme — his arrows could make one quiver with passion or pain.

"The gold tipped ones attracted people," Hemingway explained. "The lead-tipped ones repelled them." 

"Sleeping Eros" is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., until June 23, 2013. It is one of several new exhibitions on display at the Met. Information is available online at metmuseum.org.