Cupid and Psyche by Benjamin West

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Cupid and Psyche by Benjamin West

Painting NameCupid and Psyche
Painter NameBenjamin West
Completion Date1808
Size142.9 x 137.8 cm (4' 8.26" x 4' 6¼")
MaterialCanvas
Current LocationCorcoran Gallery of Art (Washington DC United States)

Cupid and Psyche” is a depiction of the love of psyche and the cupid, Eros. It is a sub-story of the ancient novel The Golden Ass by Apuleius. And allegedly, some essences of the story have been used in the other known fairy-tales like Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin and The Beauty and the Beast.

In a nutshell, the story is about a princess named Psyche (means soul or breath of life) and the cupid Eros’ love. After living together for a while, somehow, they fall apart and then psyche’s quest to get her love begins. There came too many obstacles in-between, which are the inspirations of the fairy-tale. But, all in all, at the end they get together and there was a big gathering for their marriage.

This story with mythological elements, adorned by many artists, is represented by William Etty in a very delicate way. I think the scene is after the marriage as the face of Cupid is clearly visible to Psyche. Before the marriage, Psyche even didn’t saw Cupid’s face. Another reason is the child-cupids playing in the background. They could be their children (presumably two of them are Youth and Joy and a daughter Voluptas means Pleasure).

Additionally, they were living in the grove of the cupid before marriage. This could be the same grove. So, we can confidently say that the scene William Etty has described is after they both got married and living together happily.

That’s the story. But the artistic representation we see here is a pure genius work. From the detailed depictions of the clothes to the perfectly balanced lighting to highlight particular objects, Mr. Etty has acquired the full marks. The apparent passion and adherence on the faces of central characters for each other is understandable as they have gone from some grievous events to obtain each-other. The doves on the upper-right corner of the painting are the symbols of love, reflecting the same passion of the central characters.

Never demurred to depict nudes, William Etty gave us a beautiful art-piece with a story engraved in it.

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