Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cupid and Psyche at the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, Demark

One of my favorite artistic mediums is sculpture which is fitting since my husband has discovered a budding talent for just that in the last few years. He is chagrined that it is one of the few visual art mediums he didn't study in school but has found it is one of his best. So May 2nd was a banner day since we probably saw more sculptures than we have ever seen in a 24 hour period. 

We started our day with a visit to the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen. Bertel Thorvaldsen is one of our favorite sculptors. Our first day in Copenhagen and within hours of arrival we went to see Thorvaldsen's Christus and Apostles statues at the Church of Our Lady, the cathedral of Copenhagen. So we had already had a wonderful experience with his work. That was a meal. His museum was a feast. 

But what about Hans Christian Andersen and fairy tales? Well, actually, this was a favorite day for me with very little HCA or so I thought. I actually learned that Thorvaldsen and Andersen were good friends. In fact, Andersen was one of the last to spend time with Thorvaldsen before Thorvaldsen's death. From Wikipedia:

Towards the end of 1843 he was prohibited from working for medical reasons, but he began to work again in January 1844. His last composition from 24 March was a sketch for a statue of the genie in chalk on a blackboard. At night he had dinner with his friends Adam Oehlenschläger and H. C. Andersen, and he is said to have referred to the finished museum saying: "Now I can die whenever it is time, because Bindesbøll has finished my tomb."

After the meal he went to the Copenhagen Royal Theatre where he died suddenly from a heart attack. He had bequeathed a great part of his fortune for the building and endowment of a museum in Copenhagen, and left instructions to fill it with all his collection of works of art and the models for all his sculptures, a very large collection, exhibited to the greatest possible advantage. Thorvaldsen is buried in the courtyard of this museum, under a bed of roses, by his own wish.
The museum has hosted a special exhibition about HCA previously (see Writing Is an Act of Love) and owns items about HCA, although none were on display. For example, you can read about Thorvaldsen and Hans Christian Andersen here and A Letter to Thorvaldsen from H. C. Andersen.

But enough about HCA for now. Don't worry. He'll return again in future travel posts. Now I want to turn to mythology and sculpture, especially some of Thorvaldsen's work centering around Cupid and Psyche, perhaps my favorite myth especially since it is a predecessor to East of the Sun and West of the Moon and Beauty and the Beast.

But first I had to share Heavenly Wisdom (1825). She was one of the first figures to greet me in the museum. We have an Athena in Nashville that is quite famous, but I found myself liking this thoughtful one with her little owl at her feet. It's a plaster version. The marble version is found in Saint Peter's in Rome.

As we continue, please note the photos are all my own with all their flaws and you can see them slightly larger by clicking on them. They have been sized down for the web. I am going to link to the piece's museum page where more details are provided and sometimes a better picture. The museum had both marble and plaster pieces. The plasters are always dirtier since they are more fragile but they still have some beauty to be seen.

First, from an information care at the museum, a summary of the Cupid and Psyche tale to remind us of the story.

Now some of Thorvaldsen's interpretations of the story scenes which provide "illustrations" of the story for us today.

Cupid Revives Psyche, 1810 This is beautiful, there is another version, too: Cupid Revives Psyche, 1810 which I like even better but I didn't see it in person to photograph it. The details are more refined in it. Gorgeous.

From the museum card:

After many inhuman ordeals, Psyche has at last found her Cupid again. In her hand she holds a chalice with the elixir of immortality that will render her divine like her lover, so the two can finally marry.

Bonus: I also fell in love with this Huntress on a Horse, 1834 that is a rare piece of classical inspired art that shows a woman in action. Even Athena, Goddess of War, is usually just standing still. Its companion piece of a male hunter was much more sedate in action, making it even more magical.

And finally, there were many, many, many Cupids fluttering around in marble and plaster in the museum, the cute cherub types. Those don't capture my fancy as much but this one made me laugh: Shepherdess with a Nest of Cupids, 1831.

From the museum card:

The small cupids represent various aspects of love: The cupid with his eyes closed represents slumbering love; those kissing represent active, ardent love; the cupid laying his head on the shepherdess’s arm is hoping for love; the one patting the dog represents constancy and the one flying away fleeting love. Perhaps the cupid that is not clearly seen represents secret love.
Finally, Thorvaldsen did several studies and other works of Cupid and Psyche, too. The museum site has some photos of the plasters and sketches. These are not as lovely to me since the plaster has deteriorated, but they provide a look into the artistic process. If this really interests you, search the site and see drawings and other works, too. For now see:

Cupid and the Sleeping Psyche, 1838

Another Cupid and the Sleeping Psyche, 1838

Psyche and Cupid, 1838 (waking Cupid)

Another Psyche and Cupid, 1838 (reunited perhaps?)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this. Inspiring. I'm also a fan of Thorvaldsen.