Charles Meynier: Wisdom Defending Youth from the Arrows of Love (1810)

(National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada)

A painting by the French artist Charles Meynier (1763/68 – 1832). The subject of this painting comes from the 1699 book "The Adventures of Telemachus" by the French archbishop and writer François Fénelon, published in 1699. In the book Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, recounts a dream in which Venus appears with her son Cupid:

"in his (= Cupid) piercing eyes there was something that I (= Telemachus) could not behold without fear. He smiled as he looked at me, but it was a malicious smile, mocking and cruel. He selected from his golden quiver the keenest of his arrows and, having bent his bow, the shaft was just parting from the string when Minerva (=Wisdom) suddenly appeared and lifted her shield before me. … The arrow, unable to penetrate it, fell to the ground; and the god, shamed and indignant, sighed bitterly. ‘Away! reckless boy,’ said Minerva; ‘you have power only over the dishonorable, who prefer sordid pleasures to wisdom, virtue and glory"

Painting from 1810.