In Roman mythology, Psyche’s beauty attracted much attention. Venus, the goddess of love, became jealous and tried to get revenge. She convinced Cupid to seduce the young beauty and cause her great sadness. Instead, Cupid fell in love with Psyche and took her to a beautiful palace where he visited her every night, but never during the day, to avoid angering Venus.
In this painting, Psyche is amusing herself by playing with a butterfly, her usual emblem. Both she and the butterfly symbolised the human soul. Psyche entices the butterfly into the palace with a sprig of honeysuckle. The doves of Venus can be seen flying ominously in the background.