Ary Scheffer in the Dordrechts Museum

Facing the traumas of your childhood.

This Saturday I went to the Dordrechts Museum (@dordrechtsmuseum) for the first time in my life (that I was aware of). I was born in the city of Dordrecht but I never lived there and rarely go there. And that’s a shame, because both the city itself and the museum are absolutely beautiful!

The museum had a beautifully designed (!) exhibition on the 19th/20th century painter Willem Bastiaan Tholen, which I will post about later, and a really nice permanent presentation. One of the highlights of the collection is “Heavenly and Earthly Love” (1850) by Dordrecht-born Romantic painter Ary Scheffer.
Both heavenly and earthly love are pictured here quite literally, with the (properly dressed) heavenly love located above the nude earthly love, naturally.

And that is where my childhood trauma comes in. Having a reproduction of this work above the dining table isn’t exactly what a 6 year old boy appreciates (especially when he’s having friends over). But that’s exactly what my parents did. When first exhibited in Dordrecht in 1854 a woman was reported running away screaming because of the obscenity of it. I know exactly how she felt.