I would like to tell you a bit more about the amazing sculpture that is Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss. It was made by Canova in 1793 and it can be seen in the Louvre.
Antonio Canova (1757-1822) came from the North-East of Italy. He was an apprentice in Venice, then he installed his workshop in Rome. He was inspired by recently discovered antiquities, which were drawn by artists. In 1787, he made Clement XIV’s tomb and changed sculpture with the importance he gave to the line and drawing.
Cupid and Psyche are part of a myth from the 2nd century AD written by Apuleius. Psyche was a beautiful woman. Men forgot Venus to honor Psyche’s beauty. Venus became jealous and ordered that the ugliest man would marry her. But Cupid, Venus’ son, abducted Psyche. He came every night but always left in the morning. One night, Psyche used a oil lamp to see who took her away. She discovered the truth but Cupid was burnt by the lamp. Psyche lost Cupid, and she endured much to find him again. She went to the Underworld to retrieve a box full of the ideal beauty. She opened it and fainted. Only the kiss of Cupid could wake her up.
For Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss, Canova was inspired by a Roman painting found in Herculaneum which he visited in 1787. The artist did a lot of research (drawings and small models). The legs of the characters form a pyramidal volume which stabilizes the composition on the rock. The composition is swirling. Indeed, from the right foot of Cupid, the movement follows the arms which raise Psyche. This last movement shows that she is coming back to life. This ascending movement is emphasized by the verticality of the wings. There is space between the two faces, but the sensual tension is at its maximum. This sculpture gives a life like impression because of the way the marble was treated. Canova left some tools marks on the marble. Those marks give the light a chance to play on the marble and reflect differently.
This sculpture was an immediate success. It was made to be seen from different angles, its stand was even able to rotate with the help of an handle. Canova gave the plaster model to his favorite student, Adamo Tadolini, who made some changes to it. This plaster model is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All the replicas made at that time came from the modified plaster model.