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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Psyche Abandoned by Cupid

Photo: Nathaniel Willson

Psyche Abandoned by Cupid

ca. 1699

Nicolas Colombel

French, 1644 - 1717

The jealous goddess Venus sent her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. Instead, Cupid became enamored himself and installed Psyche in a palace where he visited her at night so that she couldn't learn his identity. One night she stole a peek at his beautiful face. Startled awake, Cupid left immediately, and his palace vanished. Psyche wandered the earth searching for her lover, performing impossible tasks set by Venus in hopes of winning him back. Finally, Jupiter intervened: he made Psyche a goddess and reunited her with Cupid, giving their story a happy ending.

Here Cupid has just abandoned Psyche, who chases him as he hovers out of reach. This moment allows Colombel, a French artist who trained in Rome, to show the Roman countryside -- the appropriate setting for this classical myth.

Oil on canvas
44 7/8 × 57 7/8 in. (114 × 147 cm)
Gift of Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen
Provenance: {Possibly Salon, Paris, 1699 as Psyché abandonee}; Collection of Augustin Blondel de Gagny (1695-1776); sold at his collection sale December 10, 1776-January 22, 1777, lot 210; acquired by [Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun and Nicolas Le Rouge, 1776/1777-1778]; sold at their auction in Paris, January 19, 1778, lot 92 (505 livres); Sale, Le Boeuf, Paris, April 8, 1783, lot 72 (“Psyché abandonée par l’Amour; on la voit sur le devant du Tableau tendant les bras & voulant suivre l’Amour que s’envole: l’on y voit encore des fleuves & des Nayades [sic]. Le fond se termine par un beau Paysage & de riches monuments d’architecture. L’on a regardé jusqu’à present & à juste titre ce Tableau comme l’un des plus beaux de ce peintre. Il vient de la vente de M. de Gagny, no. 210, & de notre vente du 19 janvier 1778, no. 92. Hauteur 36 pouces, largeur 60 pouces. T[oile]”); acquired by Comte Jean Balthazar d’Adhémar de Montfalcon (1736-1790), 1783-1788; sold in his sale at Christie’s, London, March 19, 1788, lot 36 (17.6 livres); acquired by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), 1788-1795; his estate sale at Christie’s, London, March 17, 1795, lot 70 (25.4 livres); acquired by [William Dermer], 1795-before 1920; Private Collection, Berlin, before 1920, and by descent until 2008; acquired by [Bernheimer-Colnaghi, Munich-London, 2008]; acquired by Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen, Seattle, 2008-present. *The painting has a clean certificate from the Art Loss Register, dated December 22, 2016.
Photo: Nathaniel Willson
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryProbably Paris, Salon, 1699.

Rouen, France, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nicolas Colombel, Nov. 2012-Feb. 2013. Text by Karen Chastagnol. Pp. 172-173, reproduced on cover.

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