Psyche Before Venus
One of a group of 18 known as the ‘Liverpool Cartoons’, WAG 4036 is virtually a continuation of the previous cartoon, WAG 4035, and was probably concieved as a pair with it, as were WAG 4032 and WAG 4033. 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’.