Love: Art of Emotion 1400–1800 draws upon the NGV’s diverse permanent collection to explore the theme of love in art, and the changing representations of this complex emotion throughout the early modern period in Europe.

While popular conceptions of love tend frequently to focus upon romantic love, Love: Art of Emotion explores love’s varied manifestations across the realms of human experience, including familial relationships, religious devotion, friendship, altruism, patriotism, narcissism, materialism and nostalgia. The exhibition presents depictions of love’s many variations in painting, sculpture, prints and drawings, as well as non-representational and functional objects such as costume, furniture and religious artefacts.

Featuring more than 200 works from the NGV’s International Collection, some of which have never been displayed before, the exhibition demonstrates the balance between modest and grandiose, civic and domestic, micro and macro, from Vivarini’s grand-scale, much-celebrated painting The Garden of Love to tiny pieces of jewellery, worn against the body as love tokens or in memoriam. Through these diverse objects and images, the exhibition explores notions of public display and private emotion, ostentation and intimacy, of performance and of feeling.

The exhibition also considers love in relation to its associated emotions such as desire, wonder, ecstasy, affection, compassion, envy, melancholy, longing and hope, as well as the ways in which these combine and intersect. Bringing together a diverse array of works from the Medieval to the Romantic period, Love: Art of Emotion examines the shifting, multifaceted expressions of this rich and perennially relevant subject.