Seduction and Courtship

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Throughout history, perhaps no other activity has preoccupied cultures as much as the cycle of courtship, seduction, and marriage—what Shakespeare summed up as "wooing, wedding, and repenting." It is no surprise that art the world over has depicted and dissected the often complex social mores and rituals that accompany this pursuit, and those particularly adept at it—from Don Juan to the Troubadours—have become household names. In ancient Greek myth, however, the line between seduction and abduction was thin—Cupid's arrows compelled many a god to abscond with a beautiful mortal woman (scenes such as the Rape of Europa or Leda and the Swan have been idealized by painters ever since). The Rococo in France and Italy in the 17th century witnessed a particular obsession with themes of love and courtship, from the subtle advances portrayed by Jean-Antoine Watteau to the titillating flirtations in Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s paintings.

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