Psiche Curieuse

Artist: Giovanni David (Italian, Cabella Ligure 1749–1790 Genoa)

Date: mid-1770s

Medium: Etching and aquatint, corrected proof with notations in brown ink in margin

Dimensions: Plate: 11 3/16 x 7 1/2 in. (28.4 x 19 cm)
Sheet: 12 5/8 x 8 15/16 in. (32 x 22.7 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1976

Accession Number: 1976.629


The mortal princess Psyche was so beautiful that she was worshipped in place of Venus. Cupid, sent by his angry mother to make Psyche fall in love with the vilest man on earth, fell in love with her himself and installed her in his enchanted palace. David depicts the moment when Psyche's lamp reveals that her mysterious lover is Eros. Presently, the god of love will be awakened by a drop of oil and flee.
David may have been the first Italian to take up the new medium of aquatint, which allowed him to imitate the subtle tonal effects of a wash drawing.