Love Locked Out

Anna Lea Merritt (1844–1930)


Oil on canvas

1156 x 641 mm.

Courtesy of Tate Britain NO1578. Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1890

“Cupid, the god of love, is shown here trying to force open the door of a mausoleum. Merrit made the picture in memory of her husband, who died within three months of their marriage. Both Merrit and Cupid face the task of conquering death, which they are bound to fail.”

“The depiction of the male nude by a female artist was a contentious issue in the late-nineteenth-century art world. Merrit escaped censure by choosing to paint a child, rather than an adult. Children, she believed, were less conscious of nudity and had ‘no sense of shame before artists’” (Tate Britain 2004 commentary)

Although Tate and remarks by others don’t seem to realize it, Love Locked Out has much in common with Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, probably the most famous of all nineteenth-century British religious paintings. Hunt's painting, which was widely known through reproductive engravings, has divine love in the person of Christ standing before a locked door that is more overgrown than the one in Merritt's picture.

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