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Pencil Drawing - Cupid and Psyche - Study of Psyche, Cupid and Venus

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Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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Basic Information

Accession Number:1927P607
Collection:Fine Art Prints and Drawings
Date:1865 - 1865

Maker Information

Artist:Sir Edward Burne-Jones - View biography for Sir Edward Burne-Jones


One of eleven tracings in Birmingham's collection for 'The Story of Cupid and Psyche' made to accompany the poem in William Morris' 'The Earthly Paradise'.

Whitley has misidentified all three figures in this study. The nude on the left is not Psyche, but rather Venus, as Burne-Jones depicts the figure wearing a crown of flowers, probably roses. This is a convention used with the goddess throughout the history of art, but utilised quite often by Burne-Jones, especially in his images of Venus illustrated throughout the 'Earthly Paradise'. Closer inspection also reveals the sketch of wings behind the man's heavy drapery to the left, so he can be identified as Cupid. The woman he accompanies is his much-humbled wife, Psyche, eyes downcast with a slight smile on her face, almost in a gesture of acceptance.

This study probably relates to the episode where after Psyche has successfully completed the trials set out for her by Venus, they are reconciled, and Psyche enters Olympus to receive immortality. This study shows Psyche entering the door or gateway into the presence of the gods on Olympus, similar in composition the 'Cupid & Psyche' sketchbook study 1927P648.53. The finished composition does not show Venus in the position as she appears here, but rather in the left centre background. Mercury stands in her stead in the finished composition.

According to Joseph Dunlap (77: New York,1971), Burne-Jones drew designs showing Psyche in an exterior setting, among the Olympian gods, as well as in an interior, as in this version.

Bequeathed by James Richardson Holliday, 1927.

Further Information

Production Period:19th century
Medium:Pencil on tracing paper (for engraving).

Associated People


Height:109 mm
Width:83 mm