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Featured Masterpiece  

This month's featured oil painting is David's 'Cupid and Pysche'

Jacques-Louis David was born into a prosperous family in Paris on August 30, 1748. When he was nine, his father was killed in a duel, and his mother left him with his prosperous architect uncles. They saw to it that he received an excellent education at the College des Quatre-Nations, but he was never a good student; he had a tumor that impeded his speech, and he was always too busy drawing.

He covered his notebooks with drawings, and he once said, I was always hiding behind the instructors chair, drawing for the duration of the class. Soon, he desired to be a painter, but his uncles and mother wanted him to be an architect. He soon overcame the opposition, and went to learn from Francois Boucher, the leading painter of the time, who was also a distant relative. Boucher was a Rococo painter, which was falling out of style and becoming more classical. Boucher decided that instead of taking over Davids tutelage, he would send David to his friend Joseph-Marie Vien, a mediocre painter, but one that embraced the classical reaction to Rococo. There David attended the Royal Academy, based in what is now the Louvre.

David attempted to win the Prix de Rome, an art scholarship to the French Academy in Rome four times. Once, he lost, according to legend, because he had not consulted Vien, one of the judges. Another time, he lost because a few other students had been competing for years, and Vien felt David's education could wait for these other mediocre painters. In protest, he attempted to starve himself to death. Finally, in 1774, David won the Prix de Rome. Normally, he would have had to attend another school before attending the Academy in Rome, but Viens influence kept him out of it. He went to Italy with Vien in 1775, as Vien had been appointed director of the French Academy at Rome. While in Italy, David observed the Italian masterpieces and the ruins of ancient Rome. David filled sketchbooks with material that he would derive from for the rest of his life. While in Rome, he studied great masters, and came to favor above all others Raphael. In 1779, David was able to see the ruins of Pompeii, and was filled with wonder. After this, he sought to revolutionize the art world with the eternal concepts of classicism.

Cupid and Psyche 1817 was commissioned by an Italian art collector, Count Sommariva. The theme is the conquest of Psyche by cupid. Psyche was the daughter of a king and her beauty was so great that Venus became jealous and sought to destroy her. She was led to a boulder to be devoured by a monster, but Cupid became infatuated wit her, went to her rescue and took her to an enchanted palace. He visited her in secret every night and promised that her happiness would last forever, provided she made no attempt to see her lover’s face. Unable to constrain her curiosity, Psyche lit a light one night in order to behold him. Awakened by a drop of oil which had fallen from the lamp, Cupid fled and the enchanted palace disappeared. Psyche had to endure a number of trails and obtain Jupiters intervention, as well as the forgiveness of Venus, before she could be reunited with Cupid again. Finally, she was made immortal and joined him for all eternity.       



     
 
 
 
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