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Henry John Stock (1853-1930)
Henry John Stock (1853-1930)

The Uplifting of Psyche 'By the help of a divinity not our own' - Virgil

Henry John Stock (1853-1930)
The Uplifting of Psyche
'By the help of a divinity not our own' - Virgil
signed and dated 'H.J. Stock./1905' (lower right) and further signed and inscribed 'The Uplifting of Psyche/'By the help of divinity not our own'/Virgil/By H.J. Stock/16 Elm Park Rd Chelsea S.W.' (on a label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
82 x 46 in. (208.3 x 116.9 cm.)
London, Royal Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, 1905, number untraced.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

This picture seems to show Psyche being revived by Cupid after she has opened the casket given to her by Venus to take to Proserpine in Hades, and been overcome by the fumes that emerge. She and Cupid subsequently marry and she joins the gods on Mount Olympus, the tale representing an allegory of the soul's search for God.

For many Victorians the most familiar version of the story was that given by William Morris in The Earthly Paradise (1868-70), and this may indeed have been known to Stock. However, when he exhibited the picture in 1905 the catalogue quoted Lonsdale and Lee's 1871 translation of a line in Virgil's Aeneid, Book II, line 396: 'Vadimus immixti Danais haud numine nostro'. Aeneas is describing how he and his companions, attempting to flee the sacked city of Troy, put on the armour of Greeks they had slain and attempted to make their way to safety 'by the help of a divinity not our own'. The narrative context bears no relationship to the story of Cupid and Psyche, although the line in question was obviously adaptable to Stock's subject.

Stock trained at the Royal Academy Schools and exhibited at the Academy and elsewhere for many years. He seems to have earned his living painting portraits, although his real interest lay in imaginative subjects expressed in a style which suggests the influence of William Blake and G. F. Watts. With Blake he may have felt some special sense of identity. Like Blake, he was born in Soho, and he lived latterly at Felpham in Sussex when Blake had spent the years 1800-03 under the patronage of William Hayley.

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