One of some forty-five wood engravings designed by Burne-Jones and mostly cut by William Morris illustrating the 'Cupid and Psyche' story for a lavish publication of William Morris' 'The Earthly Paradise'. Trial proofs at the Chiswick Press, were considered unsuccessful as a union of text and image, and the project was abandoned.
It was not until the late 1880s that sets of proofs were made. Sir Sydney Cockerell noted that eight sets were printed under the direction of Emery Walker, the total number of sets is unclear. Engravings were made in 1935 from the drawings in the Ashmolean Museum. The illustrations and the poem were finally printed in 1973 with an introduction by A.R. Duffy.
Birmingham's collection has the full set of engravings and over 100 preparatory drawings.
Psyche, is sent by Venus with a casket to give to Proserpine, Queen of the Underworld. Psyche only knows how to contact Proserpine one way - by dying, so she is determined to kill herself by throwing herself off the tower, seen at left. Yet, she is restrained by the voice of a dead queen, whose ghost haunts the tower, advising Psyche of a secret entrance to the Underworld, and that she need not die to achieve her task.