Artist: De Morgan, Evelyn
Object Number: P_EDM_0011
Date: 1883 - 1884
Category: Oil on canvas and Paintings
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Framed: H 717.6 x W 1098.6 mm
Inscriptions: Signature, painted, lower left: "EP 1883-4"

This painting is an allegory for the passing of time and the life cycle. The lovers in the foreground sit listening to the piping angel, with wonderful outstretched red wings. The male figures seems entranced, but the woman is distracted. The book open before them holds the key to her distress as it shows a passage from an Elegy of the Roman poet Tibullus, where the writer imagines dying in his lover’s arms, and considers her grief at his funeral.

Interea dum fata sinunt iugamus amores
iam veniet tenebris Mors adoperta caput
iam subrepet iners aetas nec amare decebit
dicere nec cano blanditias capite

The passage is translated as

List we to love meanwhile, in lover’s fashion:
Death wears apace with darkness round his brow
Dull Ela is stealing up to shame our passion;
How shall grey hairs beseem these whispered vows.

And sure enough, across the River of Life, we see an bowed old woman being accompanied by the Angel of Death, come to finally reunite the widow with her departed lover.

Evelyn painted Love’s Passing shortly after meeting the older William De Morgan and prior to her marriage. She didn’t sell the work and it remained within the family until her younger sister’s death in 1965.