A Love Set in Stone
Updated: Aug 4
A Love Set in Stone
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss is one of the most beautiful sculptures by Antonio Canova. It represents the meeting between two young married lovers and is the metaphor of the eternal struggle between rationality and instinct, between heart and mind.
I was in Paris with my daughter early this summer and we visited the Musée du Louvre. (Article coming soon about our incredible mother/daughter trip.) This was by far, my favorite masterpiece in the Museum. I did love gazing at the works of the Impressionist Masters like Degas, Cézanne, Monet. Some of them were breathtaking. And of course, everyone goes to see DaVinci’s Mona Lisa but there was something about Cupid and Psyche.
Canova's sculpture captured the moment as a tender embrace. Their arms intertwine but don’t cling, their fingers touch lightly and their kiss remaining suspended in a beautifully, vulnerable eternal moment.
The legend of Cupid and Psyche is one of the oldest love stories in recorded history. Also known as ‘The Tale of Love and Soul,’ the story has been retold in poetry, drama and opera and widely depicted in painting and sculpture. The interpretation as myth and fairy tale remains one of the best love stories of all time. I think Canova captured their tender love perfectly.
Cupid is associated with all forms of love, ranging from affection to intimacy. In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love, while his father Mars is the god of war. Based on these distinctly different qualities, scholars have speculated that the birth of Cupid was intended to show how the contrasts of love and war are as connected as they are in opposition.
Cupid is symbolic of both the innocence of a child and that of danger. How does danger enter in the picture of the adorable curly-haired cherub that we can so readily picture in our minds? He is carrying a weapon – Cupid is always portrayed with a bow and a quiver of arrows – perhaps the deadliest military weapon of the age. He was the one who was filled with contrasts, with the ability to perform good deeds, such as making people fall in love and wickedness, by making people feel desire, often against their free will.
The legend of Cupid is that his mother Venus was jealous of the beauty of a young mortal named Psyche and ordered Cupid to punish the woman. Instead, Cupid saw her and fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him. Psyche remained content until her sisters convinced her to look at Cupid. As soon as she looked at him, Cupid grew angry and left. A lesson in boundaries and guarding your marriage.
As Psyche wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, Venus gave the mortal a series of tasks. Psyche was given a small box and told her to take it to the underworld to capture some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto.
During her journey she was given clues on how to avoid the dangers of the realm of the dead and was warned not to look in the box, a lesson in the risks associated with curiosity and wandering. Yet temptation overcame Psyche, and she opened it. Instead of finding beauty, she found deadly slumber. It was there that Cupid found his wife, lifeless on the ground. He gathered the deadly sleep from her body and put it back into the box. The gods, moved by the love Psyche and Cupid shared, made the mortal Psyche a goddess. Cupid thus became a symbol of love and affection.
Scholars have suggested that Cupid’s appearance represents the nature of love, as his wings represent the flightiness of lovers, while the arrow and torch, objects associated with him, serve to represent how love can both emotionally wound and inflame an individual. Some suggest that Cupid is often represented as a young boy to illustrate how love can be irrational and foolish, as are many young people. I wrote about love as a drug and you can read about it here.
Although times change, certain elements of the human experience do not, such as the fundamental emotions of love and affection. Perhaps this is the most rational explanation for why Cupid and Psyche have remained relatable and iconic entities throughout several centuries. The origins of Cupid and Psyche in mythology are the topics of stories which can be related to everyday life. Cupid’s commitment to his beloved makes the pair symbols of eternal love.
Loving relationships require that we learn how to open up and share from our hearts.
Vulnerability is emotional openness and putting yourself into a position in which you are exposed and willing to be open. It's also the skill of being aware and acknowledging your emotional state rather than avoiding, or denying your feelings. While many people incorrectly identify vulnerability as a weakness, it’s actually a strength that requires confidence in oneself and your ability to embrace challenging situations such as Cupid and Psyche.
Being vulnerable means putting your heart on the line, even if that means heartache. Vulnerability encourages the most authentic version of yourself to come to the forefront.
Why is it so difficult to be vulnerable?
The word vulnerable comes from Latin and means “wounding.” Not surprisingly, vulnerability often has a negative association where it’s seen as the opposite of being strong.
Vulnerability is consciously choosing to NOT hide your emotions or desires.
The ultimate truth about love and relationships, the truth that most of us want to avoid, is that loving another person means opening ourselves to the possibility of being hurt. Being vulnerable requires you to share from your heart and that creates the potential for being hurt or rejected.
When working with couples to improve intimacy, I often advise them to focus on becoming more vulnerable with each other. It can be a powerful to be vulnerable and experience connection. It’s this sort of simple moment of intimacy that couples find they’ve been missing most in their relationship.
Real, genuine vulnerability represents a form of power—a deep and subtle form of power.
It’s like the backwards law in action: in order to become more resilient, more formidable, you must first bare your flaws and weaknesses for the world to see. In doing so, they lose their power over you, allowing you to live your life with more honesty and intention.
Opening oneself up to vulnerability, training oneself to become comfortable with your emotions, with your faults, and with expressing oneself without inhibitions doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. A grueling one at times. But I can assure you, if you put in the work—if you have the difficult conversations, if you express yourself honestly even when it’s risky to do so—you’ll find new depth in your relationships. All your relationships. And maybe a tenderness that will connect you for eternity.
Silvia Farag, MSW, LSW, PsyD Candidate runs the Christian Center for Counseling and works with adolescent and adult clients in individual, couples & family therapy. Her personal philosophy is that through human connection, we can foster the encouragement needed to take courageous steps toward creating positive change. She uses evidenced based and strengths-based approaches & believes in the inherent ability of everyone to overcome when they are willing to step into their potential. Therapy illuminates the path so the client can make conscious steps towards emotional health. Her attitude is one of respect and acceptance of each client’s individuality, allowing for the creation of a safe, therapeutic space. Silvia serves with Coptic Women Fellowship, an archdiocese ministry focused on enriching, supporting, and strengthening the lives of women, along with the clergy and several accomplished women of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.