Tag Archives: Cupid and Psyche

Allegorical Art

 Before I start, allow me to thank Art Bacchant for the post  which alerted me to the existence of this artist. The painting below, titled Sense of Sight, by Annie Swynnerton,  is what initially attracted my attention. Its composition and use of color are compelling, as are the eyes and facial expression of the main figure.

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Sense of Sight by Anna Louisa Swynnerton

Anna Louisa Swynnerton (1844 – 1933) was known for her allegorical paintings.

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Study of angels, Anna Louisa Swynnerton

The work of Edward Burne-Jones was one of her major influences.  Here are some photographs of the artist herself:


Cupid and Psyche have been painted by various artists, including Burne-Jones. A version from Swynnerton is shown below. Again, I am impressed by the expressions on the faces. Perhaps more than the other paintings I have included, it reminds me of the work of Edward Burne-Jones, especially the style of his Perseus cycle featured in another post under this category.

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Cupid and Psyche by Anna Louisa Swynnerton

I’ll end with Oceanid, a painting of a lake nymph who was the daughter of Okeanos and Tethys. Notice how the water surrounding her sparkles in its transparency. This painting is a good example of the artist’s use of vibrant color.

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Oceanid by Anna Louisa Swynnerton

I am struck by how all of the above works seem to vibrate with life in one way or another.

Mythology on Canvas: Mythological Model (1)

Maria Zambaco is one of the most (perhaps the most) recognizable models of the Pre-Raphaelites. She sat for some portraits by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of the founding Pre-Raphaelite painters. An example is shown below.


Here is another striking image in black and white by the same artist:

Portrait of a Lady by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Portrait of a Lady by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

But her more famous exposure (no pun intended) was in a number of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones. In these, she was portrayed as a number of different characters from mythology in various states of dress. In the following examples, I am reminded of the similarity between the legends of Perseus slaying Cetus and Saint George slaying the dragon.

The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra

Born Maria Terpsithea Cassavetti on April 29, 1843, in London, she was the daughter of a wealthy Anglo-Hellenic merchant. She studied art, including a stint as a student of Auguste Rodin in Paris.  In the 1880s, she even worked as a sculptor, contributing some medallions to the British Museum, some of which are shown below.



But she is better known for her modeling. With dark red hair and very pale skin, this statuesque woman evidently had a very striking appearance.

Headstrong and independent she married Dr. Demetrius Zambaco and bore him two children, but the marriage was troubled and did not last. She moved back in with her mother in 1866, and it was her mother who commissioned Edward Burne-Jones to paint her as both cupid and psyche during that same year.

Cupid and Psyche by Edward Burne-Jones.
Cupid and Psyche by Edward Burne-Jones.

Although the artist would make several versions of this painting with Maria as a model, the above painting (as nearly as I can tell) is the commission that introduced him to her. And that started all the trouble…

(to be continued)