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Cupid and Psyche

This exquisite print reproduces a segment of a complex fresco cycle from the Sala di Psyche in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua. Based on the stories of Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), the activity takes place at a bacchanalian feast on the island of Venus. Cupid and Psyche, reclining on a couch, are crowned with laurel wreaths by a hora (winged attendant). Their child, Voluptas (goddess of sexual delight), is between them. Behind the couch, Ceres pours water from a pitcher onto Cupid’s left hand, which rests on a dish held by Juno. In the middle ground, satyrs prepare a sacrifice before an unidentified male statue.

The narrative’s emphasis on the carnal activities of one of mythology’s greatest couples made it an ideal subject for a room that served as a private retreat for the patron and his mistress.

Giorgio Ghisi
Italian, 1520–1582
after Giulio Romano
Italian, 1499–1546
Cupid and Psyche
1573–74
Engraving on paper
Image/sheet: 14 1/16 x 9 1/8 in. (35.7 x 23.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Collection of Diether Thimme, 98.266