This winged young man who has just landed on a rock where a girl lies unconscious, is the god Eros – Cupid in Latin – and can be recognized by his wings and his quiver filled with arrows. The girl’s name is Psyche. Cupid’s mother Venus, goddess of Beauty, demanded that Psyche bring back a flask from the Underworld, strictly forbidding her to open it.
But Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her; and no sooner had she had breathed in the terrible fumes than she fell into a deep, deathlike sleep. Seeing her lying motionless, Cupid rushed to her and touched her gently with the tip of his arrow, to make sure she was not dead. This is the moment caught by the sculptor: Cupid lifts his beloved Psyche in a tender embrace, his face close to hers. Psyche lets herself sink slowly backwards, languorously taking her lover’s head between her hands.
Canova took his inspiration from a legend recounted by Latin author Apuleius in the Metamorphoses At the close of the tale the gods decide in council to grant Cupid Psyche’s hand in marriage, according her immortality and making her the goddess of the Soul.