William-Adolphe Bouguereau's, The Rapture of Psyche (1895) is an elegant and enamoured study of the mythological figures Cupid and Psyche on their ascent to heaven. His interpretations of Christian and Pagan subjects was immensely appealing to the art-collecting classes of his day, and Bouguereau enjoyed immense success during his lifetime. The Rapture of Pscyhe is a pictorial reproduction of a story from a Latin novel known as 'The Golden Ass' written by Apuleius in the 2nd century. One of the artist's favorite myths, the story of Cupid and Psyche was the subject matter for several of Bouguereau's paintings including Cupid and L'Amour et Psyche, enfants (1890) and Psyche et Cupid (1896). The myth follows the princess Psyche, an object of jealously for the Goddess Venus on account of her radiant looks. In anger, Venus orders her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a beast. Instead, Cupid falls for Psyche. The painting captures the moment when, after a number of tests, obstacles and trials, the gods immortalise Psyche and the pair ascent to heaven where they are married.
Apuleius's novel was rediscovered during the Renaissance and became engrained in the classical consciousness. The couple's union is one beyond the reality of lived experience or human reason, theirs is a relationship of the eternal soul, inspired neither by pagan ritual or Christian dogma. The Rapture of Pscyhe is thus a perfect expression of the primary themes, the staggering skill, and the lofty aspirations of Bouguereau's craft. Perhaps remembering the tragic death of his beloved wife almost twenty years previously, The Rapture of Pscyhe could also be seen a figurative reproduction of the deceased and the artist's fervent hope in the continuation of their love and his belief in a future reunion in heaven.
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