The sensuality displayed here is irrefutable. This magnificent sculpture was commissioned by Colonel John Campbell in 1787, and it was executed flawlessly by Antonio Canova, a sculptor from Possagno who was raised by his stonemason grandfather. It's often said that it is highly reflective of the period, which witnessed the birth of Romanticism and thus a resurgence in the popularity of Neoclassicism. The sculpture depicts Cupid reviving Psyche, whose story appears in Apuleius's Latin Novel the Golden Ass. In the story, Psyche was warned by Venus not to open a jar which she had been given to collect a fragment of beauty from Prosperpina; of course, as in the Pandora's Box story, she did open it, and immediately a Sleep of the Innermost Darkness entered her (which Proserpina had used instead of Beauty), so there's something of a precursor to the Sleeping Beauty story as well. Cupid used one of his arrows to awaken her.
The statue was acquired by the Louvre in 1824; a second version of the statue was acquired by Prince Yusupov, a Russian noble, which made its way to the Hermitage. The plaster cast for that particular version is now found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The original apparently features a handle near Psyche's feet, which was to be used to revolve it on its base. It's one of the more popular sculptures in the Louvre, and is often mistaken for a Classical work, although it is quite modern judging by some of the other artifacts found in this museum!
The Louvre Palace complex is located on the Right Bank of the Seine, directly across from another famous museum and former train station, the D'Orsay Museum. The former palace's origin dates back about a thousand years; it was first mentioned in 1198. The ancient foundations and towers can still be seen by visitors. There is a model located under the Room of the Caryatids that shows what the original palace looked like. It was once a fortified palace which resembled many other high-walled castles, and served as the seat of the French nobility until Louis XIV moved to Versailles in 1682. The present structure, remodeled to include royal apartments by Charles V was begun in 1535, and it has been extended significantly since the sixteenth century. Francois I and Henri II remodeled the structure completely. Perhaps it was eventually turned into a huge museum because of ties to the world of arts: Henri IV added a Grand Galarie along the Seine, the longest of its kind in the world at the time. He was also a great patron of the arts, and even invited hundreds of artists and craftsmen to live and work in the palace, a tradition which continued for two centuries, until the reign of Napoleon III. The museum is the second largest but the most visited in the world, housing famous works such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and many other important and unique collections. A record 8.3 million visitors passed through the complex in 2006.
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