Mercenary Love

WAG 1221


The picture suggests that the man has just dropped some coins onto the woman’s lap. Along with her revealing neckline, this tells us that she is probably a sex worker. Art with a moral theme was popular in Germany and the Netherlands around this time. This painting is meant as a double satire. It ridicules older men who lust after younger women. It is also critical of women who care more about money than love. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.