Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche - a sculpture by Antonio Canova
The famous statue Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova was first commissioned in 1787. It exemplifies the Neoclassical devotion to love and emotion. It represents the god Cupid in the height of love and tenderness, immediately after awakening the lifeless Psyche with a kiss. This scene is excerpted from Lucius Apuleius Latin novel Metamorphoses ( ref. The Golden Ass).
The sculpture is considered a masterpiece of its period.
The original version was donated to the Louvre Museum in Paris where it resides today. The plaster cast version is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The myth of Cupid and Psyche
Greek Myths and Legends
Psyche was the youngest daughter of a king and she had two older sisters. The two elder were charming girls, but the beauty of the youngest was so wonderful that language is too poor to express its due praise. The fame of her beauty was so great that
strangers from neighboring countries came in crowds to enjoy the sight, and looked on her with amazement, paying her that homage which is due only to Venus herself.
The goddess Venus, jealous and envious of the beauty of a mortal woman asked her son, Cupid, to use his golden arrows to cause Psyche to fall in love with the most vile creature on earth. Cupid agreed but then fell in love with Psyche on his own. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him
Psyche was happy until her sisters convinced her to look at Cupid. Cupid punished her by departing. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished with Cupid and Psyche found herself alone in an open field. As she wandered to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and dangerous than the last. For her last task Psyche was given a little box and told to go to the infernal shades, and give the box to Proserpine, and say, 'My mistress Venus desires you to send her a little of your beauty, for in tending her sick son she has lost come of her own.'
During her trip she was given tips on avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead. And also warned not to open the box. But having got so far successfully through her dangerous task a longing desire seized her to examine the contents of the box.
"What," said she, "shall I, the carrier of this divine beauty, not take the least bit to put on my cheeks to appear to more advantage in the eyes of my beloved husband!:" So she carefully opened the box, but found nothing there of any beauty at all, but an infernal and truly Stygian sleep, which being thus set free from its prison, took possession of her, and she fell down in the midst of the road, a sleepy corpse without sense or motion.
But Cupid not able longer to bear the absence of his beloved Psyche flew to the spot where Psyche lay, and gathering up the sleep from her body closed it again in the box, and waked Psyche with a kiss.
"Again," said he, "hast thou almost perished by the same curiosity. But now perform exactly the task imposed on you by my mother, and I will take care of the rest."
Then Cupid, as swift as lightning penetrating the heights of heaven, presented himself before Jupiter with his supplication. Jupiter lent a favoring ear, and pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with Venus that he won her consent. On this he sent Mercury to bring Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, and when she arrived, handing her a cup of ambrosia, he said, "Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal; nor shall Cupid ever break away from the knot in which he is tied, but these nuptials shall be perpetual."
Thus Cupid and Psyche became at last united, and in due time they
had a daughter born to them whose name was Pleasure.