The story of Cupid (or Eros) and Psyche is one of the most romantic from mythology. The myth tells of a girl so beautiful that men began to abandon the temples of Venus to worship her, sending the goddess into a rage. She sent her son to Psyche in order to destroy the girl by having her fall in love with a monster, not knowing he would fall in love with her himself. He took the girl to his palace as his wife, only visiting her at night and never allowing her to see him. When poor Psyche's jealous sisters poisoned her mind with horrors about her husband she glanced upon his sleeping form with the help of an oil lamp which promptly dripped and wounded him, causing him to abandon her, for 'there can be no love where there is no trust.' She then was forced to go through a series of impossible tasks by Venus in order to reunite with her husband. It was the final task which Psyche failed; falling into an eternal sleep after peeking at a box of Queen Proserpine's beauty. By then, Cupid had forgiven his wife and flew down to rescue her and carry her to Olympus to make their marriage official.
For many generations Psyche's tale was a popular theme in art. Not only was it an opportunity to paint a beautiful woman, but illustrate a story with a moral. The eighteenth century arrived with the the Rococo movement; floating fabrics, pastels, and romantic themes. The myth of Cupid and Psyche was very attractive to Rococo sensibilities. By the end of the century Neoclassicism had replaced Rococo as the en vogue art style. Psyche appealed to Neoclassicists for her Classic theme and opportunity to represent the the body in a history painting setting. By the restrained Victorian age the portrayals of Psyche became increasingly more sensual than those in the previous centuries.
|Francois Boucher, The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, 1744|
|Charles-Joseph Natoire, Psyche at her Toilette, 1745|
|Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Psyche showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid, 1753|
|Pompeo Batoni, The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, 1756|
|Joshua Reynolds, Cupid and Psyche, 1789|
|Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, The Reunion of Cupid and Psyche, 1789|
|François Gérard, Cupid and Psyche, 1798|
|Angelica Kauffman, The Legend of Cupid and Psyche, 1800|
|Benjamin West, Cupid and Psyche, 1808|
|Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, The Abduction of Psyche, 1808|
|Jacques-Louis David, Cupid and Psyche, 1817|
|François-Edouard Picot, Cupid and Psyche, 1817|