Amore e Psiche (1796)

Canova, Antonio (1757-1822)

Amore e Psiche (Cupid and Psyche)
Marble, 148 x 172 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

The theories of Neoclassicism, formulated in the works of the German scholar and philosopher Johann Joachim Winckelmann, were vividly embodied in the art of the outstanding Italian sculptor of the late 18th century, Antonio Canova. His sculptures were hugely popular at the end of the 18th century, and remain so with the public today. He made two versions of this sculptural group of Cupid, god of love, and Psyche; one is now in the LouvreParis, while the Hermitage version was originally commissioned by Prince Yusupov. Made in 1796, the sculpture once stood in a room in the Yusupov family’s country home, Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow. The poetic legend of Cupid and Psyche is told by the Roman writer Apuleius. Cupid’s mother, the goddess Venus, envious of the beauty of her son’s beloved, despatched Psyche into the Underworld to fetch a vessel containing Proserpina’s beauty ointment, forbidding her to open it. Psyche could not resist looking inside the flask and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Only the kiss of Cupid returned her to life. The composition of this group is based on smooth rhythmic lines, and the light movement of the figures, the graceful gestures and decorative approach make this one of Canova‘s loveliest sculptures. (SHM)

See also:

• Apuleius (c.124-c.170): Psyche et Cupido (Latin)