Paradise Lost

From 9 March to 24 September, 2017

Cupid and Psyche, 2nd century BC. From Thorvaldsen's collection of Plaster Casts.
Cupid and Psyche, 2nd century BC. From Thorvaldsen's collection of Plaster Casts.

Love, hope, and the inexorable passage of time. In the exhibition Paradise Lost, the basic questions of existence are illuminated by means of sculpture, graphic art, and painting. This exhibition is based not only on Bertel Thorvaldsen’s own works, but also on works by other artists spanning numerous centuries.

Paradise Lost is an image-based narrative about humanity’s conception of happiness: the happiness that once was, and the happiness that we can dream about or hope to attain in the future for ourselves, our children, and their descendants. Thematically, the exhibition comprises seven topics: “Paradise Lost,” “Fundamental Questions,” “Time,” “Hope,” “Love, Blind or Clear-Sighted,” “Love’s Dark Sides,” and “Fertility.” Themes that are universally human, and which thereby unite us across age groups, geography, and religion.

Paradise Lost deals relatively little with Christianity’s Garden of Eden, nor with the kingdom of heaven that Christians have yearned for for centuries. Rather, the exhibition focuses more on the hope for progress, prosperity, freedom, love, happiness, and truth. Looking beyond everyday life, and daydreaming of better times, can often provide the energy and inspiration needed to overcome the exhausting routines of work and real life.

Love and time

The myth of Cupid and Psyche is the classical tale of how love conquers all, of living happily ever after. The exhibition includes a cast of a second-century Roman copy of Cupid and Psyche, which Thorvaldsen himself was inspired by when producing his own sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. But love is not always sunshine and butterflies; it does not always bring happiness. Rather, love’s shadow-sides are legion—and that very dimension of love is frequently depicted in art.

The passage of time and the changing of the seasons are basic conditions of human experience. Metaphorically, the seasons also represent fundamental elements in human nature: they serve to visualize the mutability of life, the phases of the human lifespan, and the inescapability of death. Accordingly, the seasons are a well-known and beloved motif in sculpture.

By means of its seven themes, Paradise Lost offers the visitor to the Museum the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be human, and to contemplate a number of the fundamental questions of existence. The exhibition catalogue offers more details not only about these themes, but also about a selection of the works on display.

The exhibition is arranged by mag. art and registrar Laila Skjøthaug.