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Cupid and Psyche

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

In the oft-depicted tale of Cupid and Psyche, the son of the goddess Venus falls in love with a beautiful mortal and spirits her away to an isolated palace, where he visits her at night but steals away each morning before dawn to conceal his identity. David’s version pairs the sleeping, postcoital Psyche with the fully awake Cupid, who prepares to extricate himself from the weight of his slumbering partner.

David’s Cupid takes the form of a smirking teenager, portrayed with a naturalism that was considered jarring at the time—not only in juxtaposition to Psyche’s idealized appearance, but also in its rejection of le beau idéal, a notion of polished classical beauty that had been promoted by the German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

Cupid and Psyche, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white gouache, over black chalk

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