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The story of Psyche comes from a tale by the Roman poet Lucius Apuleius. Psyche was the daughter of a king. Cupid, Venus’s son, fell in love with her, but she angered him, and he left her. Psyche wandered over the earth in search of Cupid until Jupiter took pity on her, made her immortal, and re-united the lovers. Leighton based Psyche’s pose on an ancient statue of Venus Leaving the Bath that he’d seen in Naples in 1859. He may also have designed the frame, which echoes the architectural details in the background of the picture.

July 2007