The transported girl awakes to find herself at the edge of a cultivated grove (lucus). Exploring, she finds a marvelous house with golden columns, a carved ceiling of citrus wood and ivory, silver walls embossed with wild and domesticated animals, and jeweled mosaic floors. A disembodied voice tells her to make herself comfortable, and she is entertained at a feast that serves itself and by singing to an invisible lyre.
Psyche at the Stream
Oil on board
30 x 50.5 cm
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
In the course of her wanderings, Psyche comes upon a temple of Ceres, and inside finds a disorder of grain offerings, garlands, and agricultural implements. Recognizing that the proper cultivation of the gods should not be neglected, she puts everything in good order, prompting a theophany of Ceres herself. Although Psyche prays for her aid, and Ceres acknowledges that she deserves it, the goddess is prohibited from helping her against a fellow goddess. A similar incident occurs at a temple of Juno. Psyche realizes that she must serve Venus herself.
The goddess then throws before her a great mass of mixed wheat, barley, poppyseed, chickpeas, lentils, and beans, demanding that she sort them into separate heaps by dawn. But when Venus withdraws to attend a wedding feast, a kind ant takes pity on Psyche, and assembles a fleet of insects to accomplish the task.
Venus is furious when she returns drunk from the feast, and only tosses Psyche a crust of bread. At this point in the story, it is revealed that Cupid is also in the house of Venus, languishing from his injury.
At dawn, Venus sets a second task for Psyche. She is to cross a river and fetch golden wool from violent sheep who graze on the other side. These sheep are elsewhere identified as belonging to the Sun. Psyche's only intention is to drown herself on the way, but instead she is saved by instructions from a divinely inspired reed, of the type used to make musical instruments, and gathers the wool caught on briers.
At his return, he became one of the most prominent painters of the country, challenging his friend Boucher, who had a very similar style. Natoire however specialised in creating decorative ensembles for prestigious patrons, including the famous Story of Psyche for the Hôtel of the Duke of Rohan in Paris.
He was appointed academician on 31 December 1734. Then he had an important career, being promoted Adjunct Professor on 2 July 1735, Professor on 2 July 1737, and finally Director of the French Academy in Rome from 1751 to 1775. He subsequently gave up painting after his final departure to Rome and instead drew many landscapes of the Roman countryside. He died in Rome on 23 August 1777. More
The last trial Venus imposes on Psyche is a quest to the underworld itself. She is to take a box (pyxis) and obtain in it a dose of the beauty of Proserpina, queen of the underworld. Venus claims her own beauty has faded through tending her ailing son, and she needs this remedy in order to attend the theatre of the gods (theatrum deorum).
Once again despairing of her task, Psyche climbs a tower, planning to throw herself off. The tower, however, suddenly breaks into speech, and advises her to travel to Lacedaemon, Greece, and to seek out the place called Taenarus, where she will find the entrance to the underworld. The tower offers instructions for navigating the underworld:
The airway of Dis is there, and through the yawning gates the pathless route is revealed. Once you cross the threshold, you are committed to the unswerving course that takes you to the very Regia of Orcus. But you shouldn’t go emptyhanded through the shadows past this point, but rather carry cakes of honeyed barley in both hands, and transport two coins in your mouth.
The speaking tower warns her to maintain silence as she passes by several ominous figures: a lame man driving a mule loaded with sticks, a dead man swimming in the river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead, and old women weaving. These, the tower warns, will seek to divert her by pleading for her help: she must ignore them. The cakes are treats for distracting Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of Orcus, and the two coins for Charon the ferryman, so she can make a return trip.
Everything comes to pass according to plan, and Proserpina grants Psyche's humble entreaty. As soon as she reenters the light of day, however, Psyche is overcome by a bold curiosity, and can't resist opening the box in the hope of enhancing her own beauty. She finds nothing inside but an "infernal and Stygian sleep," which sends her into a deep and unmoving torpor.
Meanwhile, Cupid's wound has healed into a scar, and he escapes his mother's house by flying out a window. When he finds Psyche, he draws the sleep from her face and replaces it in the box, then pricks her with an arrow that does no harm. He lifts her into the air, and takes her to present the box to Venus.
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet ARA (1833 – 1898), see above
Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours (4 April 1752 – 6 April 1809) was a Swiss painter born in Geneva, Switzerland. He began studying with his father Jacques (1708–1773) who was himself a renowned painter. He continued his studies in Paris, in 1769, with Joseph-Marie Vien. In 1780, he obtained the Prix de Rome, but was denied a place at the French Academy in Rome, because of nationality issues and he began the journey at his own expense. In 1792, Saint-Ours was forced to return to his homeland due to the events of Revolution.
On 6 April 1809 he died in Geneva. His works may be seen in several museums, including the Louvre, in Paris, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire of Geneva. More