Friday, January 7, 2011

Cupid and Psyche

Ok, I know it's only January. But like usual, I am already being bombarded with all things pink, red, fluffy, chocolaty, flowery and corny. All this "BE MINE!!" mania of course got me thinking of Valentine's day. That kind of lead me down a convoluted path through the Alps and over the Nile where I finally ended up thinking about Cupid. Then I remembered one of my favorite statues: Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova.

This is one of my favorite photos of the statue because of the compassion and love that is so clearly displayed on Cupid's face. He is holding Psyche so gently that you understand his emotion completely just from his body language and his face.

To fully appreciate the statue, you need to know the whole story. And I love the story because I love Greek mythology.

The legend goes that Venus, the goddess of love (also thought of as the most beautiful woman in the world. Sorry, Victoria's Secret Angels. You'll never top her) was jealous of a mortal named Psyche. So she began to plot and scheme until she devised the perfect plan. She would send her son Cupid to shoot one of his arrows into Psyche while she was sleeping. When she awoke, Venus would have placed a terrible creature in front of her, which she would unfortunately fall head over heals in love with :/ But don't worry! There's good news.

When Cupid flies into Psyche's room, he turns himself invisible. As he readies his arrow over her to shoot it, he takes pity on her and stops to take in her beauty. Suddenly, she awakens and looks straight into his eyes, despite his invisibility. Startled, Cupid bricks himself, causing him to fall in love with Psyche.

He leaves quickly to report back to Venus, unable to complete his mission. Venus, enraged, puts a curse on Psyche, preventing her from finding a suitable husband. This angers Cupid greatly, and he vows not to shoot any more arrows as long as the curse is on Psyche.

After months of Cupid not shooting any arrows, the world begins to look old and wilted with no one falling in love or mating. Finally Venus says she'll let Cupid be with Psyche as long as he'll start working again.

Psyche's parents begin to worry over the fact that Psyche has received no marriage proposals. They seek the help of an oracle who tells them that she must be left on a rural mountain for he beauty is too great for a mortal man. The parents obey the oracle's prophesy (Isn't it amazing what people would believe? Geesh). Zephyrus, the west wind, carries Psyche to a remote castle where she is waited upon by invisible servants. Darkness falls and the bridegroom (Cupid) arrives to consummate their marriage (bow chicka bow wow!). He tells her that she must never turn on any lights or try to discover his real form (kind of a deal breaker if you as me...).

Things are good for a while. But then Psyche's sisters tell her that people have been saying that her husband is really a demonic snake who is going to eat her and her baby (forgot to mention that she was preggers). They tell her she must kill him. So that night Psyche waited for her husband to fall asleep and then cast her lamp upon him. Right as she realized it was Cupid, she pricked herself on one of his arrows, making her fall madly in love with him. Cupid is startled awake by her kisses and flies away quickly.

The next morning Psyche finds herself at home, heartbroken. With vendetta pumping in her blood, she tricks her sisters into killing themselves (karma: that shit comes back). After searching for Cupid in vain, she goes to Venus and begs for her help. Venus gives her too supposedly impossible tasks, but is outraged when she completes both of the tests.

Then Venus sends Psyche to the Underworld with a box to bring back some beauty from the queen of the underworld because supposedly she lost some from all the stress of comforting Cupid. On the way back from the Underworld, Psyche decides to open to box and give herself some of the beauty. But instead of beauty, an eternal sleep falls over her.

Cupid, who had finally forgiven Psyche, rushes down to her and wipes the sleep from her face (this is the scene that is depicted in the statue). Cupid finally convinces the Gods of Olympus to make Psyche immortal and they live happily ever after together.

It is definitely one of my favorite Greek Myths.


  1. Wowww! Read it all and loved it. Nice blog :)

  2. So beautiful! I haven't read that story in too long. Bravo on this post!