Cupid and Psyche

April 26th, 2012 Comments Off on Cupid and Psyche

Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo is hosting the exhibition La favola di Amore e Psiche. Il mito nell’arte dall’antichità a Canova. It makes sense that the exhibition should be held there because of the building’s Perino del Vaga frescoes figuring Cupid and Pysche. The frescoes decorate the apartment, specifically the bedroom, of Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese). The show has objects of all types: sculpture, ceramics, paintings, prints, and drawings.

There’s a magnificent Raphael drawing from Lille for a pendentive at the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche at the Farnesina, and another drawing from Turin for the same project. The exhibition was a bit disappointing because there were so few drawings. One of the exhibitions I’ve only known from the catalogue, and always regretted not seeing, was the 1981 show Gli Affreschi di Paolo III a Castel Sant’Angelo. Progetto ed esecuzione 1543-1548, curated by Filippa Aliberti Gaudioso and Eraldo Gaudioso. The catalogue has close to 150 drawings and to have seen them in the rooms next to the frescoes for which they were made, must have been a thrill. Knowing of this earlier exhibition sharpened the disappointment.

Still, there were two Raphael drawings. And then there was a very surprising black ink on papyrus drawing of Cupid and Pysche. She’s on the left and has butterfly wings, and Cupid with bird wings, is on the right. There’s no text on the papyrus and it may be that it was made as an independent work of art. If the dating of the papyrus drawing is right, it would mean that it’s contemporary with Apuleius’s Golden Ass, which narrates the story of the lovers. The papyrus was found in Egypt, but looks more Roman or Greek in style. The drawing is also amazing for its size–250 mm or about 10 inches across.

The exhibition opened on 16 March and closes 10 June 2012.



Amor and Psyche | AD 100-199 | Black ink on papyrus | 150 x 250 mm | Inv. PSI 8 919 | Museo Egizio | Florence

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