Monday, April 03, 2006

Till death do us part - Answer : I

A riddle from ancient times,
Asks of kisses which revive,
A story unfolds in amorous climes,
Two entangled into one, come alive.

The sculpture by the Italian master Antonio Canova, now placed at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, is known as Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l'Amour (or Psyche revived by the kiss of Love).

According to one of the most romantic of the Greek and Roman myths, the lovely Psyche had through her splendorous beauty incited jealousy in the heart of Venus herself, the goddess of love. Venus had a son named Eros (sometimes called Love or Cupid) whom she used to inflame the hearts of men and women to love or hatred. Venus dispatched Eros to inspire Psyche with the love of some base creature but when Eros saw her, he himself was smitten with love and failed to carry out his mother's orders.

He caused Zephyr to waft her away to his own palace in a beautiful secluded valley. There he came to her each night in secrecy, having whispered to her that she must not seek to know his name.

Psyche had two sisters who became envious of the manner of life which the unknown lover had bestowed upon the youngest of the three. Working upon her fears and her curiosity, they induced Psyche to light a lamp while her lover was asleep and to gaze upon him.

When Psyche did so, she saw not a monster as they had predicted, but the most handsome of all youths. In her excitement she let fall upon his shoulder drops of burning oil from the lamp. Eros awoke and admonished her thus, "Love cannot live without trust." After which he disappeared.

In her despair Psyche went to Venus to beg forgiveness and to offer to do deeds of penance. Venus was unforgiving and assigned the most difficult of tasks to the beautiful girl. While performing the superhuman tasks assigned to her by Venus, Psyche falls into a deadly sleep from which only Cupid's kiss can awaken her.

This work depicts the final scene in the story of Cupid and Psyche.

My photography does not do justice to this marvellous sculpture. The marble of which it is carved looks so soft, so alive with the burning passion with which this work is infused, it gives one a sense of immense pleasure just to behold it in person.

The connection to the seemingly drab equation which follows is at least as fascinating as this sculpture itself, if not more. The key here is to see the two bodies of Eros and Psyche, entangled into one, forever. Their destinies eternally woven as threads to form the single quilt of their one life.

I will complete the answer in the next post.

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