Unknown Artist - Psyche
Psyche (Psyche of Capua; Psyche of Naples; Aphrodite}, undated copy
MARBLE, 19 inches high
Gift of the Estate of Albert L. Farwell
This modern sculpture reproduces the ancient Roman Psyche of Capua, which is housed today in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. The sculpture was rediscovered in 1726 in the amphitheater of nearby Capua, for which the work was subsequently named. Scholars continue to debate whether the subject is the mythological Psyche or the goddess Venus based upon the limited information that can be derived from the figure's pose and costume.
In the late antique tale of Cupid and Psyche, as recounted by Lucius Apuleius in The Golden Ass (2nd century C.E.), Psyche was a beautiful mortal with whom the god Cupid fell in love. Although Cupid concealed his identity from her and visited only at night, she eventually gave in to temptation and lit a lamp so that she could see him. Angered, Cupid abandoned her to her fate, but later forgave and married her after she endured a series of seemingly impossible tasks assigned by his mother, Venus. In this work, if the subject has been correctly identified, Psyche's downcast expression suggests the moment of her abandonment.