Psyche: Pietro Tenerani’s sleeping beauty

Pietro Tenerani,

Psyche, subdued by curiosity, said to herself: “Am not I a foole, that knowing that I carrie here the divine beauty, will not take a little thereof to garnish my face, to please my love withall?”

The quote is from Apuleius’ novel “Metamorphoses”, in which he tells the tale of the beautiful Psyche, victim of Venus’s jealousy and loved by the goddess’ son, Cupid, whom she refers to as “my love”.

One of the labors imposed on Psyche by Venus is a journey to the underworld. Once back, the girl opens a ciborium that the goddess had her believe contained the essence of beauty. Inside, in fact, Psyche only finds “an infernall and deadly sleepe, which immediatly invaded all her members as soone as the boxe was uncovered, in such sort that she fell downe upon the ground, and lay there as a sleeping corps.”

The Tuscan sculptor Pietro Tenerani (Torano, in the province of Carrara, 1789 – Rome, 1869) captured the moment in which, as Apuleius recounts, the beautiful young girl faints.

Here is the delicate, harmonious “Psyche in a faint”. Tenerani, who studied in Bertel Thorvaldsen’s studio and was part of the Italian purist movement, had such a passion for this story that he represented it over and over again.

This particular marble statue was created by Tenerani in 1869, and is now kept in the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome.

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September 15, 2014

Psyche: Pietro Tenerani’s sleeping beauty

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