A closer look at Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
 

Analysis

Who are these beings?

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This winged young man who has just landed on a rock where a girl lies unconscious, is the god Eros – Cupid in Latin – and can be recognized by his wings and his quiver filled with arrows. The girl’s name is Psyche. Cupid’s mother Venus, goddess of Beauty, demanded that Psyche bring back a flask from the Underworld, strictly forbidding her to open it.

But Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her; and no sooner had she had breathed in the terrible fumes than she fell into a deep, deathlike sleep. Seeing her lying motionless, Cupid rushed to her and touched her gently with the tip of his arrow, to make sure she was not dead. This is the moment caught by the sculptor: Cupid lifts his beloved Psyche in a tender embrace, his face close to hers. Psyche lets herself sink slowly backwards, languorously taking her lover’s head between her hands.

Canova took his inspiration from a legend recounted by Latin author Apuleius in the Metamorphoses At the close of the tale the gods decide in council to grant Cupid Psyche’s hand in marriage, according her immortality and making her the goddess of the Soul.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Side view <br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Side view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Back view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Back view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Back view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Back view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Side view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Side view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
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The story of Psyche

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There were once a king and queen who had three very beautiful daughters. Psyche, the youngest and most beautiful of them, was venerated like a goddess by the local people.

Jealous and infuriated by such blasphemy, Venus, goddess of Beauty, ordered her son Cupid to avenge her by making Psyche enamored of the lowest of all human beings. But at the sight of the beauteous mortal Cupid fell hopelessly in love. Psyche’s father, in despair at seeing his daughter unmarried despite her beauty, consulted the oracle of Miletus. The oracle predicted terrible disasters if the girl were not abandoned at once on a rock, where a monster would carry her off.

Alone and trembling on the rock, Psyche suddenly felt the caress of a light breeze: this signaled the coming of Zephyr, the gentle west wind. He bore her away to a marble palace covered with precious stones, which would now be her home.

Each night a mysterious visitor came to Psyche’s room and made love to her. But he forbade her to try to see his face.

One night Psyche, curious to see her lover’s face, lit her oil lamp as he slept and saw that he was none other than the god of Love. But a drop of burning oil suddenly woke him; and feeling himself betrayed, he fled.

Desperate, Psyche set out in search of her lost love. Venus inflicted terrible ordeals on her, leading her from the Underworld to Olympus. For the last of these ordeals, Venus sent Psyche to Proserpina, goddess of the Underworld, ordering her bring back a flask she should open under no circumstances. But Psyche, a victim of her curiosity, opened the flask. Inhaling the dreadful vapors, she fell into a deathly sleep. Cupid revived her by touching her with his arrow. Moved by such devotion, the gods finally granted Cupid Psyche’s hand. They gave her nectar and ambrosia, and this made her immortal. They then consecrated her goddess of the Soul.

Since ancient times Psyche has been depicted with butterfly wings. This is a reference to the dual meaning of her name, Psukhē, in Greek: soul and butterfly. Thus did the butterfly become the symbol of the immortality of the soul.

The story of Psyche symbolizes the ordeals the soul must undergo in order to achieve happiness and immortality.
Pierre PENICAUD (attributed to)<br/><i>Plate:The People Honoring Psyche</i><br/>Painted enamel on copper<br/>R 309<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Pierre PENICAUD (attributed to)
Plate:The People Honoring Psyche
Painted enamel on copper
R 309
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola
Antoine-Denis CHAUDET (1763 – 1810)<br/><i>Cupid</i><br/>Marble<br/>LL 56<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antoine-Denis CHAUDET (1763 – 1810)
Cupid
Marble
LL 56
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 1994 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
The story of Psyche:<br/><i>Psyche’s Parents Consulting the Oracle of Miletus</i><br/>Wallpaper<br/>inv. BAD 5295 (HH 2.01)
The story of Psyche:
Psyche’s Parents Consulting the Oracle of Miletus
Wallpaper
inv. BAD 5295 (HH 2.01)

© Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / Laurent Sully Jaulmes
Henri-Joseph RUTXHIEL (1775 – 1837)<br/><i>Zephyr and Psyche</i><br/>Marble<br/>LL 0007<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Henri-Joseph RUTXHIEL (1775 – 1837)
Zephyr and Psyche
Marble
LL 0007
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© RMN / Jean Schormans
Henri-Joseph RUTXHIEL (1775 – 1837)<br/><i>Zephyr and Psyche</i><br/>Marble<br/>LL 0007<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Henri-Joseph RUTXHIEL (1775 – 1837)
Zephyr and Psyche
Marble
LL 0007
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© RMN / Jean Schormans
François GÉRARD (Rome, 1770 – Paris, 1837)<br/><i>Psyche and Cupid</i> (1798)<br/>Oil on canvas<br/>H. 1.86 m; L. 1.32 m<br/>INV. 4739<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
François GÉRARD (Rome, 1770 – Paris, 1837)
Psyche and Cupid (1798)
Oil on canvas
H. 1.86 m; L. 1.32 m
INV. 4739
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© RMN / Gérard Blot
François-Nicolas DELAISTRE (1746 – 1836)<br/><i>Cupid and Psyche</i><br/>Marble<br/>N 15515<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
François-Nicolas DELAISTRE (1746 – 1836)
Cupid and Psyche
Marble
N 15515
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2004 / Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
François Dominique Aimé MILHOMME (1758 – 1823)<br/><i>Psyche</i><br/>Marble<br/>MR 2059, C341C<br/>Compiègne, Château de Compiègne
François Dominique Aimé MILHOMME (1758 – 1823)
Psyche
Marble
MR 2059, C341C
Compiègne, Château de Compiègne

© RMN / Franck Raux
Bertel THORVALDSEN (1770 – 1844)<br/><i>Psyche Holding the Flask for Venus</i><br/>Marble<br/>A821<br/>Copenhagen, Thorvaldsens museum
Bertel THORVALDSEN (1770 – 1844)
Psyche Holding the Flask for Venus
Marble
A821
Copenhagen, Thorvaldsens museum

© Thorvaldsens museum / Pernille Klemp / Ole Woldbye
Bertel THORVALDSEN (1770 – 1844)<br/><i>Cupid Revives Psyche</i><br/>Marble<br/>A430<br/>Copenhagen, Thorvaldsens museum
Bertel THORVALDSEN (1770 – 1844)
Cupid Revives Psyche
Marble
A430
Copenhagen, Thorvaldsens museum

© Thorvaldsens museum / Pernille Klemp / Ole Woldbye
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Cupid and Psyche Standing</i><br/>Marble<br/>MR 1776<br/>Paris, musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Cupid and Psyche Standing
Marble
MR 1776
Paris, musée du Louvre

© 2004 / Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Cupid and Psyche Standing</i><br/>Marble<br/>MR 1776<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Cupid and Psyche Standing
Marble
MR 1776
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2004 / Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
<i>Cupid and Psyche</i><br/>Ancient sculpture, marble<br/>“0106693”<br/>Florence, Uffizi Gallery
Cupid and Psyche
Ancient sculpture, marble
“0106693”
Florence, Uffizi Gallery

© 2010. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Side view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Side view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
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A complex composition

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Canova seems to have undertaken extensive research before beginning this complex composition, whose inspiration is a Roman painting found in Herculaneum, a city the sculptor visited during his stay in Naples in 1787. Canova copied the man’s kneeling position exactly, together with the woman’s reclining pose and the movement of her arms. He then modeled numerous clay figures, gradually bringing out the intertwining of the bodies. In his sketches, drawings, and models of loving couples we sense struggle as much as embrace. This may intimate the episode in which Cupid, stung by the drop of hot oil, suddenly wrenches himself free of Psyche’s arms.

Canova also made many studies of the position of the arms as they prepare to close in a circular movement. The interplay of the arms and the exchange of looks in this large plaster model of Canova’s Venus Crowning Adonis foreshadow our statue. The composition of the group is to be found in the clay models: on a rock are two intertwined bodies. In the final work, however, the flexing of Cupid’s leg, the upright position of his wings, and the lifting of Psyche’s torso give the composition new upthrust.

The position of the legs of Psyche and Cupid creates a pyramid shape which grounds the composition solidly on the rock. Canova has managed to combine real equilibrium with a powerful, complex rotation. He makes his composition turn: starting from Cupid’s right foot, the upward movement follows the line of their arms in an affirmation of her return to life.

The vertical position of the wings accentuates the rising movement. This is not the case of the plaster model as modified by Adamo Tadolini, on which the smaller, more horizontal wings diminish the ascending spiral effect.The work’s emotional and sensual charge is accentuated by the space between the lovers’ faces. Time seems suspended before the passion of the final embrace.
Raffaello MORGHEN (1758 – 1833)<br/><i>A Faun and a Bacchante, after “Pitture Antiche d’Ercolano”</i><br/>Engraving after Pitture Antiche d’Ercolano, Naples, 1757, vol I, pl. XV<br/>Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Raffaello MORGHEN (1758 – 1833)
A Faun and a Bacchante, after “Pitture Antiche d’Ercolano”
Engraving after Pitture Antiche d’Ercolano, Naples, 1757, vol I, pl. XV
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

© BnF
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Satyr and Bacchante</i><br/>Graphite<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Satyr and Bacchante
Graphite
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>The Death of Adonis</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>Inv 93<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
The Death of Adonis
Terracotta
Inv 93
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Venus Mourning Adonis (sketch)</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>Inv 22<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Venus Mourning Adonis (sketch)
Terracotta
Inv 22
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Two intertwined bodies for Hylas and a Nymph?</i><br/>Red chalk on paper<br/>Eb 105.1116<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Two intertwined bodies for Hylas and a Nymph?
Red chalk on paper
Eb 105.1116
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>inv 342<br/>Venice, Museo Correr
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Terracotta
inv 342
Venice, Museo Correr

© Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Graphite<br/>Eb 29.1040 recto<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Graphite
Eb 29.1040 recto
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Study for Agamemnon, detail at the bottom of the sheet: Venus Crowning Adonis? Or Centaur and Centauress?</i><br/>Black chalk on paper<br/>Eb 29.1040 verso<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Study for Agamemnon, detail at the bottom of the sheet: Venus Crowning Adonis? Or Centaur and Centauress?
Black chalk on paper
Eb 29.1040 verso
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Venus Crowning Adonis</i><br/>Plaster model<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Venus Crowning Adonis
Plaster model
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>Inv 11<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Terracotta
Inv 11
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Back view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Back view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Plaster model<br/>05.46<br/>New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Plaster model
05.46
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© The MET, Dist. RMN / image of the MMA
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
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When marble becomes flesh

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The powerful impression of aliveness in Canova’s work reflects the remarkable subtlety and variety of his treatment of the marble’s surface. Note the marks of the toothed chisel, deliberately left on the surface of the rock. Note too the difference of texture between the folds of the fabric on the ground and the filmy muslin clinging to Psyche’s thighs. The smoothness of the skin is obtained by using progressively finer files: here Cupid’s face clearly bears their marks. The artist had special curved tools made so he could reach even the most inaccessible areas of his sculptures.

The flask has been made separately: its distinctive polish is most likely due to turning and the use of polishing powder. It was then lustered, and doubtless waxed to give it the look of a precious metal. Also sculptured separately and delicately incised, Cupid’s wings have been inserted in his back with great precision. Traces of down serve to conceal as well as possible the joining of the wings to the back. The wings are incredibly thick and physical, yet when backlit by the sun they become translucent, with a splendid golden hue.

Every detail of this work is a stunning demonstration of Canova’s virtuosity as a sculptor of marble.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Toothed chisel
Toothed chisel

© Inventaire Général des Monuments et des Richesses artistiques de la France. La Sculpture. Méthode et Vocabulaire. Secrétariat Général / Bernard Emmanuelli / Atelier R.Delamarre. P 196.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2004 / Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Back view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Back view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Back view (detail)<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Back view (detail)
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Side view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Side view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
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A much copied and imitated work

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Even if some critics found it too “baroque”, too mannered, and too complex, the work was an immediate success. It has been designed to be looked at from several angles: this is why it could originally be turned on its mobile base, using the handle on the right.

Collectors were quick to ask Canova for replicas, sometimes with modifications. This was notably the case of Prince Yusupov’s commission, which called for a more modest Psyche, with the folds of muslin covering her legs completely. This marble sculpture is now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Canova later gave the plaster model to his favorite pupil and spiritual heir, Adamo Tadolini, who altered it slightly. On the model issued by Tadolini, Psyche has small butterfly’s wings. Cupid’s wings are smaller and set more horizontally.

It was Tadolini who later made the various replicas of the work: at least five, including the one in the Villa Carlotta.
This second model was the source of all the copies and reductions of the time. The lovers’ embrace was reproduced everywhere, even on a snuffbox.

Every artist in Rome knew Canova’s workshop; and many of them illustrated this same subject. One notable interpretation was a high relief by sculptor John Deare. This is the preliminary drawing. Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, opted for showing Psyche being carried away by Cupid.

In this painting, long attributed to Canova himself, Gaspare Landi has set the figures in a classical landscape. The French painter Bénigne Gagneraux shows Cupid making sure Psyche is still alive, but retains the pyramidal composition.

In the nineteenth century the statue was as popular as ever. A drawing of the embrace by Auguste Rodin was engraved in 1886 by Félix Bracquemond. Rodin then sculpted another Cupid and Psyche, whose later title, Eternal Spring, conjures up the tranquil innocence of the original Canova.

The lovers’ swirling, heady kiss lived on in the memories of twentieth-century artists: here Scottish painter Calum Colvin has opted for close focus on the upper bodies and the faces. Later, photographers were seized by the same fascination: in her choice of a detail of the marble work, Alejandra Figueroa brings Psyche’s flesh to the brink of reality.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
Hugh Douglas HAMILTON (1736 – 1808)<br/><i>Antonio Canova in His Workshop</i><br/>Pastel<br/>E.406-1998<br/>London, Victoria &amp; Albert Museum
Hugh Douglas HAMILTON (1736 – 1808)
Antonio Canova in His Workshop
Pastel
E.406-1998
London, Victoria & Albert Museum

© V & A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Cupid and Pysche</i><br/>Marble<br/>St Petersburg, Hermitage
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Cupid and Pysche
Marble
St Petersburg, Hermitage

© The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Plaster model<br/>05.46<br/>New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Plaster model
05.46
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© The MET, Dist. RMN / image of the MMA
Adamo TADOLINI (1788 – 1868)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Marble<br/>Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta
Adamo TADOLINI (1788 – 1868)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Marble
Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta

© Fototeca Villa Carlotta
Cupid and Psyche Snuffbox<br/>Gold, enamel, glass, wax, 1799<br/>St Petersburg, Hermitage
Cupid and Psyche Snuffbox
Gold, enamel, glass, wax, 1799
St Petersburg, Hermitage

© The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
John DEARE (1759 – 1798)<br/><i>Psyche Kissing Cupid</i><br/>Drawing<br/>Private Collection
John DEARE (1759 – 1798)
Psyche Kissing Cupid
Drawing
Private Collection

© The Sculpture Journal, Volume IV 2000. Cupid and Psyche, 1787. Private collection, p.115
Jean-Pierre SAINT-OURS (1752 – 1809)<br/><i>The Reunion of Cupid and Psyche</i><br/>Oil on panel<br/>M.2000.179.30<br/>Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Jean-Pierre SAINT-OURS (1752 – 1809)
The Reunion of Cupid and Psyche
Oil on panel
M.2000.179.30
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

© 2010. Digital Image Museum. Associates/LACMA/Art Resource NY/Scala, Florence
Gaspare LANDI (1756 – 1830)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Oil on canvas<br/>Venice, Museo Correr
Gaspare LANDI (1756 – 1830)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Oil on canvas
Venice, Museo Correr

© Archives Alinari, Florence, Dist. RMN / Mauro Magliani
Bénigne GAGNERAUX (1756 – 1795)<br/><i>Cupid Wakens Psyche</i><br/>Oil on canvas<br/>Rome, Palazzo Altieri, Associazione Bancaria Italiana
Bénigne GAGNERAUX (1756 – 1795)
Cupid Wakens Psyche
Oil on canvas
Rome, Palazzo Altieri, Associazione Bancaria Italiana

© akg-images / Pirozzi
Félix BRACQUEMOND (1833 – 1914)<br/>Illustration for <i>The Legend of the Centuries</i> by Victor Hugo: 18th series (<i>groupe des idylles</i>), Aristophanes<br/>Engraving after a drawing by Auguste Rodin<br/>Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Félix BRACQUEMOND (1833 – 1914)
Illustration for The Legend of the Centuries by Victor Hugo: 18th series (groupe des idylles), Aristophanes
Engraving after a drawing by Auguste Rodin
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

© BnF
Auguste RODIN (1840 – 1917)<br/><i>Eternal Spring</i><br/>Bronze<br/>Paris, Musée Rodin
Auguste RODIN (1840 – 1917)
Eternal Spring
Bronze
Paris, Musée Rodin

© Adam Rzepka / Musée Rodin, Paris
Calum COLVIN (1936)<br/>Cupid and Psyche<br/>Reworked photograph<br/>E43-33-2 (317-000030)
Calum COLVIN (1936)
Cupid and Psyche
Reworked photograph
E43-33-2 (317-000030)

© Calum Colvin
Alejandra FIGUEROA<br/><i>Untitled</i><br/>Photograph<br/>From the series “Pierres vivantes”, photographs of sculptures in the Louvre (Canova, Psyche)
Alejandra FIGUEROA
Untitled
Photograph
From the series “Pierres vivantes”, photographs of sculptures in the Louvre (Canova, Psyche)

© Alexandra Figueroa
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Context

The first steps towards fame

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Canova was born in 1757 in Possagno, a small town in north-eastern Italy. After studying drawing, painting, and sculpture in Venice, he set up his workshop in Rome. In 1787, when he received the commission for Cupid and Psyche, he already had many works to his credit: in the far left background of this drawing of the workshop by Francesco Chiarottini we see Daedalus and Icarus, created between 1777 and 1779, when Canova was still working in Venice. The group bears the stamp of Baroque drama and Venetian picturesque.

Theseus and the Minotaur, of 1781 to 1783, was Canova’s first group in this restrained style inspired by the ancient models discovered in Rome and often drawn by artists. One example is the Apollo Belvedere. Theseus and the Minotaur was much admired for its frontality and equilibrium. Theseus’s upper body seems to derive from the ancient Belvedere Torso, now in the Vatican.

In 1787 Canova created the tomb of Pope Clement XIV in Rome, revolutionizing sculpture with his pared-down figures and his emphasis on line and its use in space. Here we see the plaster model of Temperance leaning over the sarcophagus; higher up was the figure of the Pope giving his blessing, seen here on the right.

Canova also illustrated the Cupid and Psyche theme in a version showing them standing, very young and playing with a butterfly. The composition of this group is similar to that of a model from Classical antiquity depicting the couple as two children in a standing embrace.

To meet his many prestigious commissions, such as this one for Pope Clement XIII’s tomb in St Peter’s in Rome, Canova had to reorganize his workshop. It became a hive of activity, where assistant sculptors like Tadolini worked under the watchful eye of the master.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Self-Portrait</i><br/>Oil on canvas<br/>“0091527”<br/>Florence, Uffizi Gallery
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Self-Portrait
Oil on canvas
“0091527”
Florence, Uffizi Gallery

© 2010. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali
Francesco CHIAROTTINI (1748 – 1796)<br/><i>Canova’s Workshop, Via San Giacomo, Rome</i><br/>Drawing<br/>Udine, Museo Civico
Francesco CHIAROTTINI (1748 – 1796)
Canova’s Workshop, Via San Giacomo, Rome
Drawing
Udine, Museo Civico

© Civici Musei di Udine
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Daedalus and Icarus</i><br/>Venice, Museo Correr
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Daedalus and Icarus
Venice, Museo Correr

© Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Theseus and the Minotaur</i><br/>Marble<br/>A.5.1962<br/>London, Victoria &amp; Albert Museum
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Theseus and the Minotaur
Marble
A.5.1962
London, Victoria & Albert Museum

© V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Giovanni VOLPATO (1735 – 1803) and<br/>Raffaello MORGHEN (1758 – 1833)<br/><i>The Apollo Belvedere</i><br/>Engraving annotated by Canova with pen and red chalk<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Giovanni VOLPATO (1735 – 1803) and
Raffaello MORGHEN (1758 – 1833)
The Apollo Belvedere
Engraving annotated by Canova with pen and red chalk
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
<i>Belvedere Torso</i><br/>Ancient sculpture<br/>Inv.1192<br/>Rome, Museo Pio-Clementino
Belvedere Torso
Ancient sculpture
Inv.1192
Rome, Museo Pio-Clementino

© akg-images
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Tomb of Pope Clement XIV</i><br/>Marble<br/>Rome, Basilica dei Santi Apostoli
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Tomb of Pope Clement XIV
Marble
Rome, Basilica dei Santi Apostoli

© Giovanni Rinaldi
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Cupid and Psyche Standing</i><br/>Marble<br/>MR 1776<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Cupid and Psyche Standing
Marble
MR 1776
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2004 / Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert
<i>Cupid and Psyche</i><br/>Ancient sculpture, marble<br/>“0106693”<br/>Florence, Uffizi Gallery
Cupid and Psyche
Ancient sculpture, marble
“0106693”
Florence, Uffizi Gallery

© 2010. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/>Tomb of Pope Clement XIII<br/>Marble<br/>Rome, St Peter’s Basilica
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Tomb of Pope Clement XIII
Marble
Rome, St Peter’s Basilica

© 2010, Photo Scala, Florence
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From clay to marble

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After working on various drawings and small-scale models, Canova made the final choice for his composition. He then fashioned an exact, full-scale clay model, using internal wooden armatures. Contrary to the practice of other sculpture workshops of the time, Canova worked exclusively on models the size of the final work.

The clay model had to be covered with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out and crumbling. As quickly as possible a plaster mold of the clay model was made. As a rule the model was destroyed on removal of the mold, which was then used to create a plaster cast matching the composition’s definitive size. The “full-scale” method Canova perfected facilitated the making of the final work because the dimensions were identical and the tricky business of enlarging a scale model was thus avoided. This meant Canova could entrust a large part of the transformation into marble to his assistants.

A specific assistant then took the exact measurements for transfer to the block of marble. For this he used two graduated frames set above the plaster cast and the future sculpture, together with plumb lines and large compasses.

Leaning on the sarcophagus at the far end of Canova’s workshop as drawn by Francesco Chiarottini, is the plaster cast of Temperance; closer to us, the marble statue is propped up by a stay. On the right, under their graduated frames, we see the plaster cast of the pope giving his blessing and, closer, the marble statue, lacking a hand. Sculpted separately, the hand has been placed on a stool and will later be inserted into the sleeve. The clay model used for making the plaster cast for our work must have contained many complex armatures. We note that the plaster cast used for the many copies made by Tadolini is studded with nails at the tops of the curves; the areas between the nails are dotted with small crosses allowing for absolute precision of the compass measurements.

The making of the statue in the workshop was a collective affair, but the drawings, composition, and most of the carving and finishing were by Canova. The differences of texture are his work: in the masterpieces he has left us marble is imbued with all the warmth of life.
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Study for Agamemnon, detail at the bottom of the sheet: Venus Crowning Adonis? Or Centaur and Centauress?</i><br/>Black chalk on paper<br/>Eb 29.1040 verso<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Study for Agamemnon, detail at the bottom of the sheet: Venus Crowning Adonis? Or Centaur and Centauress?
Black chalk on paper
Eb 29.1040 verso
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Two intertwined bodies for Hylas and a Nymph?</i><br/>Red chalk on paper<br/>Eb 105.1116<br/>Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Two intertwined bodies for Hylas and a Nymph?
Red chalk on paper
Eb 105.1116
Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

© Museum, Library and Archive of Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Venus Mourning Adonis (sketch)</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>Inv 22<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Venus Mourning Adonis (sketch)
Terracotta
Inv 22
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Terracotta<br/>Inv 11<br/>Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Struggle, sketch for Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Terracotta
Inv 11
Possagno, Gipsoteca Canoviana

© Museo Gipsoteca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Treviso (Italy)
Diagram of the wooden armatures of a plaster model of Canova’s Perseus
Diagram of the wooden armatures of a plaster model of Canova’s Perseus

© DR
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Perseus with the Head of Medusa</i> (1804-1806)<br/>Marble - H. 2.34 m<br/>Inv. 67.110.1<br/>New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Perseus with the Head of Medusa (1804-1806)
Marble - H. 2.34 m
Inv. 67.110.1
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© The MET, Dist. RMN / image of the MMA
Making a plaster mold<br/>Illustration taken from Francesco Carradori, <i>Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura</i><br/>Florence, 1802, pl. VI
Making a plaster mold
Illustration taken from Francesco Carradori, Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura
Florence, 1802, pl. VI

© BnF
How to reproduce a model in marble<br/>Illustration taken from Francesco Carradori, <i>Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura</i><br/>Florence, 1802, pl. VI
How to reproduce a model in marble
Illustration taken from Francesco Carradori, Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura
Florence, 1802, pl. VI

© BnF
Francesco CHIAROTTINI (1748 – 1796)<br/><i>Canova’s Workshop, Via San Giacomo, Rome</i><br/>Drawing<br/>Udine, Museo Civico
Francesco CHIAROTTINI (1748 – 1796)
Canova’s Workshop, Via San Giacomo, Rome
Drawing
Udine, Museo Civico

© Civici Musei di Udine
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Plaster model<br/>05.46<br/>New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Plaster model
05.46
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© The MET, Dist. RMN / image of the MMA
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)<br/><i>Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss</i><br/>Front view<br/>Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m<br/>MR 1777<br/>Paris, Musée du Louvre
Antonio CANOVA (1757 – 1822)
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Front view
Marble - H. 1.55 m; L. 1.68 m; D. 1.01 m
MR 1777
Paris, Musée du Louvre

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault
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