Johan Tobias Sergel’s sculpture depicts a dramatic moment in the legend of Cupid and Psyche. We see the god of love Cupid with a woman, Psyche (the Greek word for “soul” as well as “butterfly”), kneeling at his side. He is about to leave her since she has discovered his true identity. Psyche begs him to stay with her, but Cupid is already spreading his wings. He pushes her away. The tale of Cupid and Psyche is a story of an impossible love, a fight for love and finally of love overcoming the failings of gods and mortals. It also shows how, through action, a person can determine their own fate.

Sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel (1740–1814) is one of many artists to draw inspiration from Ancient Greece. He has taken the legend of Cupid and Psyche from Roman Lucius Apuleius’ book “The Golden Ass”. The story is originally a folktale that exists in many versions across different cultures, not least Swedish with its fairytale of Prince Hat under the Ground.


  • Title: Amor and Psyche
  • Creator: Johan Tobias Sergel
  • Date Created: 1787
  • Title in Swedish: Amor och Psyke (Sergel)
  • Signature: I. T. SERGELL. S. MDCCLXXXVII.
  • Physical Dimensions: h1590 cm
  • Artist Information: Sergel was a Swedish sculptor and draughtsman. In 1780, he became a professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Sergel was the son of embroiderer to the Swedish Court, Christoffer Sergell, a German who moved to Sweden the year before his son’s birth. At the age of 19, Sergel started his training at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, where he was taught by such luminaries as J.E. Rehn and P.H. L’Archevêque. In 1767–1779, Sergel travelled abroad on a Royal scholarship. He spent most time in Rome, where he drew models at the French Academy and studied the famed monuments and newly discovered antiquities in Naples and Portici. By the time Sergel left Rome, he was a sculptor of European repute, and had also developed into a leading draughtsman. On the way back to Sweden, Sergel was inducted into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris and executed the sculpture Othryades. On his return home in 1779, he was engaged by King Gustav III. Sergel was commissioned to create a number of portrait busts depicting the Royal family and countless medallion portraits of the Swedish nobility. In 1791, he completed his full-scale model of the statue of Gustav III, which was cast in bronze and erected by Skeppsbron bridge in 1808, long after the King’s death. Johan Tobias Sergel has lent his name to places such as Sergels torg, Sergelarkaden and Sergelgatan in Stockholm.
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Carrara marble

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