Originally titled "Immortal Love," this is one of Daniel Chester French’s most inspiring works of art; it is the very definition of rapture; albeit an extremely subtle definition. A woman--embraced by a lofty ideal--is being transported to another realm. Her arms and fingers are not outstretched in fight, nor are her eyes closed in fright. Instead, her mind and body delicately yield to the beauty before her.
The subject of the piece comes from Genesis 6:1-4. The Angels in Heaven, seeing how beautiful the women were below, descended and took them as wives.
French, ever the idealist, portrays this event in the most beautiful terms as possible, emphasizing the ethereal nature of the subject through the elimination of many particular details and lines. In fact, one could say that this is one of French’s most abstract works of art.
The bodies themselves are beautiful examples of rhythm and juxtaposition, and one would not guess, given its technical mastery, that French was 73-years-old when it was completed.
If there were any criticism to be levied at the piece, it would be the rather obscure nature of the secondary title and literary source for this masterpiece. The work is far too charming and beautiful to have the Old Testament as it source. Instead, this piece and French’s temperament are more suited to the tale of Cupid and Psyche. In the last chapter of their very long ordeal, Cupid descends upon the eternally sleeping Psyche and wakes her with a kiss. He then transports her to Olympus in rapture where she is granted immortality.
They marry and have child, Joy. Because joy is the consequence of when Cupid (love) joins with Psyche (the soul).
The subject of Cupid and Psyche has been done thousands of times in art. Most likely, French, having created a Cupid and Psyche, changed the title in midstream. He could have done so for any number of reasons: a dramatic cultural shift in America happened after WWI, a culture that no longer appreciated such mythological subjects (this piece is dated 1923); or maybe French simply wanted an original subject matter for this piece, to distinguish it from the other thousand artworks of the same title.
These photographs cannot be beat. Tragically, the piece has been moved to the top of a staircase, just another statue in a long line of statues...