Beauty and the Beast, Pandora, and Sleeping Beauty all rolled into one

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Southern California is one of those landscaped cemeteries that has art for art’s sake on the grounds. One of the works is a replica sculpture of Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Eros’ Kiss, created in 1787. His original sculpture is now housed in the Louvre in Paris. The sculpture is a neoclassical masterpiece depicting the two lovers at the height of their passion—the moment when Eros’ lips awaken the sleeping Psyche.

In mythology, Psyche was the mortal woman who had been gifted with beauty and grace that reviled all others, including the Goddess Aphrodite. The jealous Aphrodite hatched a plot to have her son, Eros, poison men’s souls in order to kill their desire for the gorgeous Psyche. But, like others, he fell under the spell of Psyche’s extreme beauty and fell desperately in love with her, too.

Even though, many suitors came forward to ask for her hand in marriage, Psyche spurned all of the advances saving herself for the one true love she was waiting for. Her worried parents asked an oracle for help to marry off their gorgeous daughter. Surprisingly and to their horror, the oracle foretold that the lovely Psyche would marry an ugly beast—shades of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! And so, as they say in these myths, it came to pass—their beloved daughter did marry a beast, Eros as it turns out, who she could only be with after the curtain of nightfall fell. It was mysterious but his tenderness enthralled her and she was happy beyond her dreams.

Psyche’s sisters convinced her that the beast she married was evil and would eventually kill her. So she plotted to kill him first. She put her plot into action one night after he fell asleep creeping up on him with an oil lamp to illuminate the room in one hand and a knife in the other. When she saw the flawless and perfect form of Eros she was so startled that she spilled the oil on Eros. Eros fled saying Psyche had violated his trust and ruined their perfect love.

Eros was soon after imprisoned by Aphrodite in her palace. Psyche found out and pleaded with her to be re-united with her lover. Aphrodite agreed but laid out three tasks that Psyche had to perform before she would be allowed to see Eros again. The first two tasks she completed quickly but the third task took her to the underworld where she was to bring the box back to Aphrodite that contained a potion for eternal beauty. Though, Psyche was not to open the box (we’ve seen this before in mythological stories—remember Pandora?) her curious nature got the best of her. The box did not contain the coveted elixir but instead Morpheus the god of sleep and dreams. Upon opening the box Psyche fell into a deep sleep.

Eros, still in love, escaped from his imprisonment in the palace went directly to the big guy—Zeus himself—to beg for his help to save Psyche from her dream state. When Zeus realized how powerful the love between Eros and Psyche was, he did them a solid and made Psyche immortal so the star-struck lovers could be together forever. The moment when Eros leans over to kiss and awaken his bride is captured in the statue (Sleeping Beauty anyone?).

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