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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Cupid and Psyche
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
2nd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
5.1 x 3.9 x 1.8 cm (2 x 1 9/16 x 11/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is black with small areas of green and red. The lower leg, hand, and Cupid’s wing are lost at what appear to be brittle fractures rather than being the result of casting flaws. Pitting on the torsos could be due to corrosion or to flaws in the cast. Accretions are present in the crevices.

Cupid and Psyche are solid cast as a single unit. The complex shape and the somewhat crude modeling may indicate a direct casting technique. There is little evidence of finish work to add detail to areas such as the faces. The hole at the bottom of Psyche’s drapery could be an original mount hole, as it does not appear to be modern. The hole on the bottom of Cupid’s broken leg is probably the result of a repair and also appears old. A layer of black material on Cupid’s buttocks and in Psyche’s drapery could be the remains of a cladding, perhaps silver.

Henry Lie (submitted 2010)


Recorded Ownership History
The Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University (before 1970-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
In this small group of Cupid and Psyche, the figures are joined at the hip. Neither figure had two wings originally: Psyche has a left wing, with her right arm around Cupid's left shoulder; Cupid had a right wing (now missing) and put his left arm around Psyche's right side. If both wings had been present on both figures, the artist would not have been able to show the figures’ embrace (1).

The heads of the figures turn toward each other. Although the features are soft, the general facial anatomy and hair are clear and in proportion; Psyche's cheeks are especially round. Cupid is nude with a child's body. Psyche is nude from the waist up; a flowing drape is wrapped around her lower body, held in her left hand and pressed against her right flank, but it does not cover the front. The back is fairly featureless (the wings, shape of the arms, and Cupid's buttocks are rendered), although prominent areas are worn to fresh metal.

Cupid (Eros), one of the gods of love and the son of Venus (Aphrodite), is often shown with feathered wings, while his wife Psyche is often depicted with butterfly wings. They tend to be represented as youths or as children in the Roman period (2).


1. For representations of Cupid and Psyche embracing, see, for example, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae Psyche nos. 121.a-b, 126-28, 131, and 141-44.

2. See LIMC Eros/Amor, Cupido and LIMC Psyche.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • John Crawford, Sidney Goldstein, George M. A. Hanfmann, John Kroll, Judith Lerner, Miranda Marvin, Charlotte Moore, and Duane Roller, Objects of Ancient Daily Life. A Catalogue of the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection Belonging to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, ed. Jane Waldbaum, Department of the Classics (unpublished manuscript, 1970), M172, p. 205 [J. S. Crawford]

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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