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For Immediate Release: January 31, 2006

Contacts: Lynette Nyman, P.R. Manager, (612) 870-3173; Tammy Pleshek, P.R. Specialist, (612) 870-3171; Anne-Marie Wagener, Director of External Affairs, (612) 870-3280

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“Cupid and Psyche: Neoclassical Visions of Love” showcases
Baron François Gérard’s famous painting Cupid and Psyche

Minneapolis, MN, January 31, 2006– The Minneapolis Institute of Art presents a celebrated masterpiece from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in the exhibition “Cupid and Psyche: Neoclassical Visions of Love.” Opening February 11, this dossier exhibition features Baron François Gérard’s famous painting Cupid and Psyche from the late eighteenth century, an important moment in the history of neoclassical painting, during which clarity, reason, and unity were valued above all else. As an allegory, the painting represents the philosophical ideals of the artists and thinkers who helped shape the age. As a story, it is a timeless tale of love. The exhibition also features works drawn from the Institute’s permanent collection, including paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Augustin Pajou.

Born in Rome, the son of a French ambassador, Gérard (1770–1837) began the study of art in his early teens when his family returned to France. At sixteen, he entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), whose mastery of technique, use of theatrical poses, and sharply lit scenes executed with precise brushstrokes influenced Gérard. In the Paris Salon of 1798, Cupid and Psyche was exhibited to great critical acclaim, further establishing the young painter’s career.

The ancient tale of Cupid and Psyche first appeared in written form in the Roman writer Apuleius’s Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass, written in the second century B.C., and proved to be a great inspiration to many classical artists. Over the years, the story was retold in various editions, perhaps the most popular written by Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95), the French poet and fabulist. His Les Amours de Psiché et de Cupidon, published in 1669, was the version most neoclassical artists referred to in their representations of the story.

The story recounts the life of the maiden Psyche, whose beauty rivaled that of the goddess Venus. The jealous Venus sent her son Cupid to shoot one of his enchanted arrows, ensuring a cheerless marriage for the young woman. But Cupid, besotted, decided to keep Psyche for himself. She was taken to his palace and wooed by the young god, who kept hidden from her sight. Psyche was curious about her invisible suitor, and was persuaded by her jealous sisters to slay Cupid while he slept. In a fateful accident, she mistakenly burned him with her oil lamp, and the furious Cupid flew away, vowing never to return. Venus then sent the heartbroken Psyche on a series of impossible tasks in order that she may reunite with her beloved. With the secret assistance of the other Olympic gods, Psyche succeeded in completing the tasks, and Cupid and Psyche were eventually rejoined in marriage. The story ends with the birth of their child, Pleasure.

In Gérard’s masterwork, Psyche is sitting quietly in repose as Cupid appears, tenderly receiving his beloved. A small butterfly hovers above the head of Psyche, indicating the dual meanings of the girl’s name, which translates from the Greek into English as both “the soul” and “a butterfly.” The couple’s idealized beauty is reminiscent of classical sculpture, and Cupid’s embrace is imbued with a chasteness indicating the spiritual nature of their relationship.

“Cupid and Psyche: Neoclassical Visions of Love” is on view at The Minneapolis Institute of Art from February 11 through August 20, 2006, in Gallery 306.

About The Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art, home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses approximately 100,000 works of art representing more than 5,000 years of world history. Highlights of the permanent collection include European masterworks by Rembrandt van Rijn, Nicolas Poussin, and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as internationally significant collections of Asian art, decorative arts, Modernism, photographs, and African and Native American art.

General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m-5 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Monday. For additional information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit

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