Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche / David

David used the story of Cupid and Psyche to explore the conflict between idealized love and its carnal reality.

Cupid, lover of the beautiful mortal Psyche, visited her nightly on the condition that she not seek out his identity. Cupid is usually shown as an ideal adolescent lover, but here he becomes an ungainly teenager smirking at his sexual conquest.

David took inspiration from a number of ancient texts, including a Greek poem that describes Cupid as a mean-spirited brat with dark skin, flashing eyes, and curly hair. Many viewers reacted to this painting with shock and confusion.

Cupid and Psyche contrasts dramatically with its pendant, Telemachus and Eucharis, which presents a chaster view of adolescent love.

Read an article from 1817 praising Cupid and Psyche.