Wall Fragment with Cupids and Psyche Making Perfume
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Roman, A.D. 50 - 75
Plaster and pigment
14 15/16 x 22 1/16 in.

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A group of Cupids tend a perfume shop in this Roman wall painting fragment. On the left, two Cupids mix perfume in a large white bowl. Behind them, a cupboard holds jars containing either perfume ingredients or the finished product. At the right, a Cupid holds an alabastron, while a seated Psyche holds up her arm to smell the perfume. Cupids and Psyches engaged in everyday activities were a popular humorous subject in Roman art, especially wall painting.

Typical of a style of Roman painting popular in the first century A.D. called the Fourth Style, this fresco fragment was part of a larger scheme of painted decoration for a wall in a wealthy home. Fourth Style wall painting was very much in vogue when the volcano Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The houses excavated at those sites show that a panel like this one would have been a minor element of the wall's decoration, subsidiary to a large panel with a mythological or architectural motif.