Impatient to hear the oracle's message, Psyche and her mother enter the temple at the moment when the oracle reveals the beautiful girl's fate: she will marry a heartless monster. The oracle points a finger at Psyche, who collapses into the arms of her mother while her father and Cupid watch.
The severity of the design emphasizes the drama's tragic atmosphere. Reflecting the influence of his mentor Jacques-Louis David, François Gérard explicitly divided his composition between male and female protagonists, contrasting the women's emotionalism with Psyche's father's frowning severity and restraint.
At the Paris Salon of 1796, Gérard exhibited five drawings made as models for engraved illustrations of Jean de la Fontaine's poem, Les amours de Psyché et de Cupidon(The Loves of Psyche and Cupid). The Getty Museum's drawing, rediscovered in the 1990s, is the only one among the original five known today.