“Psyche” (ca. 1880-1882) by the Victorian symbolist painter and sculptor George Frederic
Watts (London 1817 – 1904), is a gift of Alexandros K. Ionidis, a great collector of British society, as was his father, Konstantinos Ionidis-Iplixis, and a personal friend of the artist’s.
Psyche was a beautiful mortal maiden, and the goddess Aphrodite was so envious of her beauty that she sent her son Eros to poison with his arrows all men, preventing them from falling in love with her. Yet, Eros himself fell in love with her and, as Psyche being mortal was not permitted to face an immortal, he led her to a palace where he came to visit her only at night, in the dark, without her ever being able to see him. Yet, Psyche, full of curiosity about her obscure husband, one evening while he was sleeping took a lamp and went to see his face. She was astounded by Eros’s beauty and dropped oil from the lamp on him and woke him up. Angered by her curiosity, he left. In regret, she looked for him everywhere and, after many trials, with the help of Zeus, who made her immortal, reunited with Eros for ever.
In Watt’s work (a different version of the work in the Tate Gallery, inv. no. 1585), the only hints for the story of Psyche are the feather on her foot, the lamp fallen on the ground, and the bed in the background. On the contrary, the idealized “impersonal” slim and tall nude female figure personifies pure divine eros.