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In this sculpture, Rodin showcases the mythical Psyche that takes a glance at Cupid, her sleeping lover who only visited in darkness. Psyche had taken a vow to never look upon Cupid during the night as it would ruin their relationship.
On this fateful night, however, Psyche decided to break the promise after being provoked by her sisters. Auguste skillfully manipulates the marble medium to showcase the soft cloak wrapped around Cupid's body. Cupid's body takes on a ballet-like pose as Rodin sculpts her legs turned outwards while her body bends from the inside of the translucent fold of the cover. It is Rodin's mastery of the medium that makes this piece grandeur of all other carvings he ever made. The base appears pretty rough while areas around the cloak have a smooth finish.
Most of Rodin's sculptures showcased the passionate response to the human body, spontaneity and skilful modelling. He was particularly adept to conveying emotions and tension using the subject's body. Critiques found his approach somewhat radical and unusual compared to the popular Impressionism style, from artists like Degas, Monet and Manet. Rodin had developed a unique painting style during his early training in commercial studios instead of the renowned Ecole des Beaux-Arts. As a result, he deviated from the rigid painting approach that was enforced by the then art school.
When developing any carving, he would start by observing the subject incessantly then proceed to observe it from different angles and record the profiles. Rodin used plaster casts and clay models to form the basis for the carved statue. The plaster casts also allowed him to explore different ideas, which culminated into the Psyche sculpture. His students, however, helped him curve out the abdomen of the young woman, as it was not his strength.
Related Artwork - Cupid and Psyche
Rodin had created this sculpture a little earlier compared to the Psyche carving. In this case, he had focused on the theme of the lost love between Cupid and Psyche. Rodin depicts the moment Cupid abandons his lover at the command of the envious Venus goddess. He skillfully showcases Psyche's desperate need to cling to the god while lowering his face towards her. He then projects the marble medium to illustrate Cupid’s outstretched arm that binds him and his lover to an internal parting embrace. Psyche and Cupid was Rodin’s first carved piece showcased in the American collection.