Although love is a universal emotion, the ways of loving are many and have continually evolved throughout history. From one period to the next, changes in romantic relationships have provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists.

The exhibition at the Musée du Louvre-Lens will trace the history of ways of loving, from original sin to the quest for freedom. It is a love story that has inspired by turns adoration, passion, gallantry, libertinage and romanticism. It will reveal how, starting out from the stigmatising of the feminine, each successive period rehabilitated women, love, relations, pleasure and emotion, before eventually arriving at the invention of free love.

This historical overview, illustrated by a selection of some 250 artworks of art in diverse media and from various civilizations, does not seek to be exhaustive, preferring a more selective approach. Each of the seven sections highlights a major turning point in love. As this story unfolds – punctuated by literary quotations and film clips – the exhibition reveals masterpieces of ancient statuary, precious objects from the Middle Ages, paintings by Memling, Fragonard and Delacroix, and sculptures by Rodin, Claudel and Niki de Saint Phalle.