• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 132

    John Hoppner, R.A. (London 1758-1810)

    Cupid and Psyche

    Price Realised  


    John Hoppner, R.A. (London 1758-1810)
    Cupid and Psyche
    oil on canvas
    56 ½ x 44 ¾ in. (142.9 x 113.7 cm.)
    in an English 18th century carved giltwood frame

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    The story of Cupid and Psyche derives from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, the only Ancient Roman novel to survive in its entirety. This picture represents a late moment in the story when Psyche, having lost the love of her husband Cupid, is given three labours by his mother, the goddess Venus. The third of these is to descend into the Underworld and bring back a box filled with the beauty of Proserpina, Queen of the Underworld. Having obtained the prize, Psyche returns to the light of day and is overcome with curiosity. Upon opening the box, she finds nothing inside except a deadly Stygian sleep. Hoppner depicts the moment when Cupid discovers Psyche in a coma and draws the sleep out of her face, returning it to the box. Hoppner produced only a small number of mythological works and these were largely executed in the period following his marriage to Phoebe Wright in 1781 and the withdrawal of his royal allowance. McKay and Roberts (loc. cit.) date the work to 1785 and praise ‘its wonderful flesh tints, on which [Hoppner] scarcely improved’.


    Lord Sheffield.
    Major E.P.G. Miller Munday, M.C., Andover, Hampshire; Christie's, London, 28 June 1963, lot 162 (45 gns. to Corvaya for Brian Sewell).


    W. Armstrong, 'John Hoppner and His Time', The English Illustrated Magazine, 61, October 1888, p. 26.
    H.P.K. Skipton, John Hoppner, London, 1905, pp. 57 and 168.
    W. McKay and W. Roberts, John Hoppner, R. A., London, 1914, pp. vi and 299.
    J.C. van Dyke, Old English Masters engraved by Timothy Cole, New York, 1902, p. 97.


    London, Royal Academy, 1791, no. 192.
    London, P. & D. Colnaghi, Catalogue & Pictures by John Hoppner, R.A., May 1909, no. 15.