►Art / Mythology: “The Loggia of Psyche” at The Villa Farnesina
(Frescoes Based on the Myth Of Eros and Psyche):
The Villa Farnesina is placed in the Trastevere area of Rome on the Via della Lungara along the river Tiber.
It was designed by Baldassare Perluzzi between 1508 and 1512 for the banker, Agostino Chigi who was in love with his mistress Francesca Ordeaschi to whom he finally married in 1519.
After Chigi, the villa was purchased by the Farnese family and connected by a bridge across the Tiber to the huge Palazzo Farnese on the opposite bank.
The walls related to the Loggia of Phsyche were frescoed by several noted artists, most importantly Raphael, but it’s the ceiling that illustrates Psyche and Eros’ story.
Scholars suggest that the story cycle alludes to Chigi’s own life, and his recent marriage.
Although the preparatory drawings and the general conception of the stories are by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (also known as Raphael (1483/1520), the bulk of the painting was carried out by his pupils, notably Giovanni da Udine (who painted the rich plant festoons of the frame) with the collaboration of Giulio Romano, Raffaellino del Colle and Gianfrancesco Penni.
Two frescoes on the ceiling depict incidents in the story of Eros and Psyche which took place in heaven.
Eros (Roman equivalent: Cupid) fell in love with Psyche and he abducted her.
Then, they had sexual relationships in total darkness because Eros had forbidden her to look at him.
As Aphrodite (Roman equivalent: Venus) was jealous of Psyche’s Beauty, she imprisoned his son, Eros, in her palace and forbade her to see him. At the end, Aphrodite accepted a deal, telling Psyche that she had to accomplish four tasks in order to see her beloved again.
After Psyche had undergone many difficult trials, Zeus made her immortal, and allowed her to marry Eros.
The Eros and Psyche myth corpus might be considered an allegory for the ascent of the soul to immortality through love (especially love of beauty), based on Plato’s dialogue “Symposium” through Diotima’s “Ladder of Love”.
By going through it, one will ascend from loving particular kinds of beauty to loving Beauty itself, from which all beautiful things derive their nature.
According to this analogy, Beauty is related to Love. Besides, Beauty itself is a Form or Idea, which always exists, not coming into being or ceasing to be, nor increasing nor diminishing. Thus, Beauty will not appear in certain bodies in particular: it will appear in itself and by itself, independent of everything else.
►”Loggia di Psyche” (Sequential Gallery):
•In this fresco, Aphrodite (Roman equivalent: Venus) shows her son Eros (Roman equivalent Cupid) who is the young woman who was defying her own Beauty. According to the original version of the myth, Aphrodite, The Goddess of Beauty, asked Eros to poison men’ souls in order to kill off their desire for Psyche.
•Here we can The Three Graces on the clouds listening as young Eros relates the story of Psyche and his mother Aphrodite’s initial opposition – jealous of Psyche’s beauty – to mortal Psyche as his lover and eventual wife, as Apuleius originally tells in “The Golden Ass”.
The Three Graces were also known in Greek Mythology as Charites and they were goddesses related to charm, beauty, and creativity.
•This detail from the vault of the Loggia shows Venus (Greek equivalent: Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty), Ceres,(Greek equivalent: Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest) and Juno (Greek equivalent: Hera, Zeus’ wife and sister and Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth ).
In this spandrel the group of three goddesses is divided.
Venus has learned of the secret affair and, driven by wrath, is seeking support from her female friends. But they both show little sympathy for her wrath and laments.
•In this spandrel we can see Goddess Aphrodite (Roman equivalent: Venus), on a chariot and pulled by Doves. The chariot might be related with the allegory of ascendant Beauty, whilst the doves were specific attributes of the Goddess.
•This two frescoes are linked to the fourth task ordered to Psyche by Aphrodite.
As the narrative relates of her ordeals commanded by Aphrodite, Psyche is taken to Aphrodite carrying the vessel she thinks holds Persephone’s beauty but actually holds deadly “Sleep of the Innermost Darkness, the night of Styx”.
Psyche opens the box desiring to be beautiful for Eros and restored to him. In doing so, disobeying Aphrodite, she swoons toward death, needing to be revived by Eros.
•In these frescoes we can see Zeus, the ruler of the Olympian gods (Roman equivalent: Jupiter) with Eros (Roman equivalent: Cupid) on the left and Psyche on the right.
The Father of Gods advises them. His attitude seems to be more wrathful towards Eros, as he is holding his chin while he is staring at him. By contrast, he looks at Psyche with an indulgent and affable gesture.
•In these two frescoes we can see Hermes (Roman equivalent: Mercury) who was the messenger of the gods and guide of dead souls to the Underworld. Hermes was also well known for performing duties for Father of Gods.
As a matter of fact, Zeus appreciated Hermes’ wits highly and always asked for Hermes’ assistance throughout his decisions.
In Apuleius’ Eros and Psyche story, Hermes even carries Psyche to heaven and the marriage banquet, just as seen in the first frescoe below.
•The conclusion of the Psyche and Eros story takes place in two broad format paintings in the vault panel.
Raphael depicts the council of the gods in which Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter) decides to accept Psyche and Hermes (Roman equivalent: Mercury) gives her the elixir of immortality.
Then the wedding is celebrated. The groupings of figures spread out in a lively way. The communal life of the gods is unfolded in a characterization of their all human, too human feelings.-
►Paul Hindemith, “Amor und Psyche”, Villa Farnesina, Raphael:
[Note: The first fresco appearing in the video is not part of the ceiling frescoes composing “The Loggia of Psyche”. Its name is “The Triumph of Galatea” and it was completed about 1514 by Raphael for the Villa Farnesina].