Psyche at the Well
Benjamin Spence (c.1822-1866)
Versions from the 1860s, but probably an early work
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
According to the gallery's information plaque, Psyche "was the single most popular subject in neo-classical sculpture," and Spence's work probably derives from a statue of Psyche by the great neo-classical Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Thorvaldsen's piece depicts Psyche daunted by the task (in Apuleius's story of "Cupid and Psyche") of collecting water from the dangerous Styx. Spence's Psyche too seems bowed down by her mission. Such classical subjects "seem to have predominated in Ideal Sculpture. Nymphs and goddesses supplied excellent opportunities for demonstration of the nude or near nude form" (Read 199; also, it seems, of the submissive female).
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009.
Background digitally removed by Ruth M. Landow
Courtesy of the Walker Art Gallery. Liverpool