Psyche Blown by Zephyr

WAG 4032


WAG 4032 to 4038 are chalk drawings illustrating the story of Cupid and Psyche according to the text 'The Golden Ass' by Apuleius. Psyche aroused the jealousy of Venus because of her extraordinary beauty. The terms of a divine prophesy led her parents to abandon her to die on a mountainside. However a gentle wind, personified by Zephyr, made the folds of her dress billow out and lifted her gently in the air away from the mountainside and down to the valley below. One of a group of 18 known as the ‘Liverpool Cartoons’, this composition shows Psyche safely resting after the journey. Romney became interested in the story of Cupid and Pysche shortly after his return from Italy in 1775 and produced a painting on the subject. According to his friend William Hayley in 1777, Romney made eight drawings of the story. Later commentators' suggestions for the subject of the 'missing' drawing are: 'Psyche deposited by Zeus' and 'Psyche being rowed accross the Styx.' ‘Cartoon’ here refers to the word in its old sense of a preparatory, full-size drawing for a later, finished painting. They are constructed of several pieces of handmade paper pieced together to create a large surface on which to work. The 18 cartoons in the Walker’s collection are the only ones surviving of groups of drawings Romney made exploring scenes from literature and mythology. It is likely that Romney explored the cartoon form over a period of ten years, if not longer, from about 1775. Romney’s son John (1757-1832) wrote to William Roscoe (1753-1831) that the cartoons ‘were executed in the winter evenings by candlelight as a relaxation when Mr. Romney’s mind had been jaded by portrait painting during the day’.