Edward Burne-Jones, Cupid finding Psyche, a watercolour

England, AD 1866

A design for Earthly Paradise

This drawing was one of the designs that Burne-Jones made for a vast project to illustrate William Morris's Earthly Paradise (six volumes of which were eventually published between 1868 and 1870). This daunting scheme, begun in 1865, was abandoned when Morris could not find a typeface that would do justice to the illustrations. Around fifty of the designs were cut as woodblocks by Morris, but it was not until he took over all aspects of book production with the Kelmscott Press that he was able to find satisfactory design solutions for such ambitious work.

The deep, intense colour in this work is typical of Burne-Jones' heavily-worked watercolours, to which he added areas of thicker, more opaque bodycolour. The facial types are similar to those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but the soft-focus, generalised details are unique to Burne-Jones. He produced at least five versions of this subject and later a series of paintings telling the whole story of Cupid and Psyche for the earl of Carlisle (now Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery).

Jealous of Psyche's beauty, Venus sent Cupid to destroy her, but he fell in love with the sleeping princess. Cupid, who could visit Psyche only under the cover of darkness, represents love, and Psyche represents the longing of the human soul.

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More information


S. Wildman and J. Christian, Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998)

J.A Gere, Pre-Raphaelite drawings in the (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 668.000 mm
Width: 476.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1954-5-8-8



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