By the end of the 18th century, Canova was a leading figure in the Neoclassical movement, the theories of which were first formulated in the works of the German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Antique art, according to Winckelmann, achieved the very heights of ideal beauty and should be imitated in modern works. Seeking to embody his concept of ideal beauty, Canova repeatedly depicted Cupid and his beloved, Psyche. This standing group was seen as the embodiment of innocence, forming a pair with a group of Cupid with the Reclining Psyche, symbolizing voluptuousness. The young Psyche, whose name in Greek means "soul", holds Cupid's hand as he leans his head on her shoulder. She gently passes him a butterfly - symbol of the soul to the Ancient Greeks and thus suggesting that she is giving her whole soul to her beloved. Canova magnificently captured the young lovers' contemplative calm, their graceful movements, the soft folds of drapery and the smooth silhouette of the whole group. Canova was described as "the sculptor of grace and youth" by contemporaries, who saw in his work the embodiment of their perceptions of beauty. The State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin.


  • Title: Cupid and Psyche
  • Creator: Antonio Canova
  • Date Created: 1808
  • Provenance: Collection of Empress Josephine, Malmaison. 1815
  • Physical Dimensions: h1500 mm
  • Original Title: Амур и Психея
  • Type: Statue
  • Medium: Marble

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