Nicolai Abildgaard
Cupid and Psyche embrace each other, n.d.
Oil on canvas, 42 x 35,5 cm.
Inventory number: 0183NMK
Gift from stockbroker P. Rørvig, 2000


In his paintings, Abildgaard primarily worked with figure compositions and the format was often small, as in this picture with a literary subject. It shows the god of love, Cupid, with his beloved, the young mortal woman, Psyche. The painting is not signed and dated, which suggests that the painting was made for private use. The painting belonged to his artist colleague Jens Juel and was probably originally a wedding gift. The stylised expression is typical of painting method Abildgaard practiced around 1790. Psyche does not look out at the viewer, but is fully absorbed by Cupid and their embrace. Cupid, on the other hand, looks out at the viewer with a vivid gaze that is both melancholy and dreamy, emphasised formally through the white highlighting of his eyeballs. He is both present and distant in the embrace, split between his heavenly being and his earthly love.


Nicolai Abildgaard (1743–1809)
Abildgaard belongs to the generation before the Golden Age painters. He was among the Danish artists who carried out Grand Tours abroad, particularly to Italy. During his years of travel, the time in Rome was critical. Here, Abildgaard studied antique art and great Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Raphael and Annibale Caracci. In Rome, he also met the Swiss-British painter Johan Heinrich Füssli, whose demonic pictorial universe made a great impression on him. Abildgaard was a learned man with a broad interest in history, mythology and art theory alike, and the inspiration for his subjects was primarily found in the literary world. His masterpiece consisted of ten large paintings for the great hall at Christiansborg, of which seven were lost in the fire of 1794.

Translator: Jennifer Russell

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