Human Flower Project

Mrs. Cupid


Who was Love’s lover? Twenty-five centuries of artists want you to know.


imageCupid Finding Psyche

Edward Burne-Jones

Source: Images of Cupid and Psyche

Compiled by Michael Joseph

As the sun sinks in the west, February 14, we figure that Cupid can be slipping off his quiver. It’s time for the woundees to make romance as they will. Arrows all shot up, the boy with the bow is clocking out.

Whom does Cupid go home to? The figures of mythology, except Hestia and a few other B-grade gods, weren’t known for domesticity. Cupid seems especially unlikely to pair off. But he was smitten by love, for Psyche, a mortal girl, virgin, and great beauty. The public got so worked up about her they forgot to honor the love goddess Aphrodite (Venus) and instead went strewing offerings of flowers before this human girl.

Venus, enraged, ordered Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with someone hideous, a way to punish her rival and get her off the worship-market with one dart. But once Cupid laid eyes on the sleeping maiden, he fell in love with her, too. They began happy relations in the dark. The little god made her promise never to look upon him, just trust in love, but of course she couldn’t go quite that far. She lit the lamp one night and saw her boyfriend was a nubile boy with wings, and then….

imageValley of the Shadow: Cupid and Psyche

by Claudia Eve Kleefeld, 2001

Source: Images of Cupid and Psyche

The older versions of the story aren’t quite so “prettified” as more recent tellings. In some of these newer Psyche dramas, Cupid just gets a crush on his beloved when he sees her picking flowers. In others, the pair actually gets married at a big destination wedding in the clouds and lives happily ever after. This version includes a Pandora’s box episode. In most all the stories, though, Psyche is associated with flowers—as a flower gatherer and wreath maker, then as the recipient of floral honors (enough to draw Aphrodite’s notice and her ire), as a lonely girl banished to a flowery island.

imageCupid and Psyche

by Adolphe William Bourgereau, 1883

Source: Images of Cupid and Psyche

This amazing archive by scholar Michael Joseph collects images of Cupid and Psyche from the 5th Century B.C. to the present day. The Pre-Raphaelite painters were especially keen on this subject, with its beautiful heroine and dark, groggy subplots. There’s a fine Polynesian Psyche in a lei, many heavy-set operatic lovelies from the 18th century, and a 21st century Psyche who bears a strong resemblance to Barbra Streisand.

Check them out and consider the glories and gories of love. Whether Cupid hit or missed you this year, Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

 




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