Throughout his life Thorvaldsen recorded Psyche as an image of the soul and produced the motif several times (see A26 and A27). This sculpture is one of his earlier interpretations, modelled in 1806.
The motif refers to the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche. The love between the two characters caused the goddess of love, Venus, envious of the relationship. To get rid of Psyche, Venus laid a trap for her. She sent her to the underworld to collect a jar of beauty ointment, but wasn't allowed to open it. Psyche, as a human mortal, was overtaken with curiosity and opened the jar which, containing toxic funes, made Psyche unconscious.
In this sculpture Thorvaldsen has rendered this moment of the myth with such ease and tranquility that in 1835 HC Andersen described the sculpture as "the spiritually easy Psyche". Her butterfly wings and thoughtful looks make her an image of the human soul and the life of thought.
It is told at the end of the ancient myth that Psyche was saved by her beloved, the god of love Amor, and that the gods appointed her as goddess of the soul so that Amor and she could live together forever. Thorvaldsen has marked Psyche's transition from mortal to divine with her lumbar sliding slowly away from her to expose ever more of her naked body.
Psyche's thoughtfulness and calm expression are characteristic of Thorvaldsen's neoclassical Read the introduction style.
The way she sways her hip gives her a natural and graceful appearance. The heavy drape of the lapel is a contrast to her smooth and light upper body. It seems that the dress is slowly slipping off of her.
The sculpture expresses something ideal. It is due to her harmonious proportions and the material she is made of, the pure white Carrara marble Read the introduction.
Om, who was originally a commissioner for Psyche with the beauty ointment , is not known. But after its execution, it was commissioned in marble by the English richman Henry Philip Hope (1774-1839), a brother of Thorvaldsen's first important customer, Thomas Hope. Psyche was part of a decoration program at the family's headquarters Deepdene in Surrey, where it was set up in the conservatory.
Thorvaldsen's Museum bought the sculpture in 1917, when the Hope family's art collections were dissolved and sold at auction.