I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm not much of a museum rat. An hour or two in any museum--even the great ones--is more than enough for me. But, every once in a while, this museum flunky comes across a piece of art that makes me stop dead in my tracks. Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova in Paris' Louvre Museum is one such piece.
I didn't know the story behind this sculpture the first time I saw it. Now that I do, I understand why I am so drawn to it. What girl isn't a sucker for a romantic fairy tale? Here's how this one goes:
Once upon a time there was a king with three daughters. They were all beautiful, but the most beautiful was the youngest, Psyche. So beautiful, in fact, that people began to worship her instead of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. This made Venus very jealous, so she asked her son, Cupid, to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. However, when Cupid saw how beautiful she was, he dropped the arrow meant for Psyche and pricked himself with it, falling in love with her.
Despite Psyche's beauty, her parents feared no one wanted to marry her. They were told by an oracle that she was destined to marry a monster, and they were to take her to the top of a mountain and leave her there. Instead, the wind kicked up and swept her away to a magnificent palace where she was taken care of by invisible servants. Every night, a visitor (her new husband) came to her. He told her he would only visit her at night and she must never try to see him.
While her invisible husband was very good to her and the invisible servants saw to her every desire, Psyche was homesick. She gained permission from her new husband to allow her sisters to visit. When they did, they became very jealous of her lavish lifestyle. The sisters coaxed Psyche into peeking at her husband by saying he was a monster who was fattening her up to be eaten and that she must kill him if she wanted to survive.
That night, armed with a lamp and a knife, Psyche visited her husband while he slept. She was so surprised to learn that he was Cupid that she dripped hot wax from the lamp onto his shoulder, waking him. When Cupid made sense of the situation, he immediately left Psyche, hurt by her quickness to think so badly of him.
Psyche roamed day and night looking for her husband. After much despair, she went to his mother, Venus. Still angry, Venus set about in getting revenge by forcing Psyche to complete some extremely difficult tasks. Cupid, now recovered from his physical and emotional wounds, began to miss his beloved Psyche. He soon learned of his mother's shenanigans and convinced Jupiter to order Venus to stop her persecution of Psyche. That day, Psyche was delivered to Jupiter where he gave her a cup of ambrosia to drink, making her immortal. He then ordered the nuptials between the two lovers to be perpetual.
Ah, such sweet romance. Learn more about this precious sculpture by visiting the Louvre's website.
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