A fine 18th century copy after Raphael's original fresco, commissioned by the Sienese banker and treasurer to Pope Julius II, Agostino Chigi, for the ceiling of the Loggia of the Villa Farnesina, Rome (see P. De Vecchi, L'opera completa di Raffaello, Milan 1979, pp. 116-117, cat. no. 130, reproduced).
The subject is taken from Lucius Apuleius's "Golden Ass" (Books 4-6). The scene depicted represents the culmination of the classical love story. Venus who enraged by jealousy at the beauty of the mortal Psyche, sent her son Cupid to make her fall in love with the vilest wretch on earth. Cupid though accidentally pricked himself with his own arrow, and fell in love with her himself. Visiting her only by darkness he forbade Psyche to see him in his form as a God, but spurred on by her own curiosity and the jealousy of her two jealous sisters (who malisciously suggested her lover was a monster) she lit a lamp and observed Cupid while he was sleeping. Unfortunately a drip of hot oil escaped from the lamp and woke the God from his slumbers. Cupid furious at her disobediance abandoned the poor maiden to wonder the earth in search of him. She finally appealed to Venus, who set her three seemingly impossible tasks, which she accompished. Cupid seeing her service to her love for him relented, he begged Jupiter to intercede for him with Venus. Jupiter announced it his will that she be brought to heaven to marry Cupid and to be granted immortality.
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