Sleeping Cupid

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1573-1610)

Currently on View in C202
Image Licensing

The sleeping Cupid, a familiar subject in ancient sculpture and poetry, enjoyed great popularity after Michaelangelo revived it in the 16th century with a work carved in imitation of the Antique. Although many artists were inspired to take up the subject, Caravaggio's dark, unidealized Cupid is remarkable for its affirmation of love's perils. His cruel god of love, weary from inflicting so many wounds, sleeps none too soundly, his weapons still in hand.

Look out, Pilgrim, don't get so close, don't rouse him, pray that he sleeps forever and never wakes up. If you break the clever boy's sleep, right away you'll see him take up more strongly those weapons that make him worse than Death.-­­­­Giambattista Marino, La galeria, 1620

Private Collection, Ireland.{1} (Count Ivan Podgoursky [1901-1962], New York) by 1948; Dr. G.H.A. [George Henry Alexander] Clowes [1877-1958], Indianapolis, in 1952; The Clowes Fund Collection since 1958 and on long-term loan to the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1971 (C10016); given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2010.

{1} A. Ian Frasier, former curator of the Clowes Collection, writes in A Catalogue of the Clowes Collection, Indianapolis 1973, p. xxvii: "For a long time this picture was in a convent in Ireland." This information has not been verified.

Object Information

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1573-1610)
creation date
about 1595-1596
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 41 1/2 in. (canvas)
accession number
credit line
The Clowes Collection
Public Domain
European Painting and Sculpture Before 1800

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