RAFFAELLO Sanzio
(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

The Council of Gods

1517-18
Fresco
Villa Farnesina, Rome

The myth of Cupid and Psyche is depicted on the loggia of Agostino Chigi's villa. Cupid fell in love with the daughter of a king, but had to remain unrecognized by her, and so came to her only at night. After Psyche had undergone many difficult trials, Zeus made her immortal, and allowed her to marry Cupid. The unusual subject seems to be a reference to the much yearned for marriage between Chigi and Francesca Ordeaschi, with whom he already had four children. The ceremony took place on 28 August 1519.

The conclusion of the Psyche story takes place in two broad format paintings in the vault panel. Raphael places these scenes in an illusionistic tapestry that appears to be hung between the garlands. Thus the artist avoids the extreme foreshortening that would have been required of an illusionistic prospect of the sky in this same place. On the right Raphael depicts the council of the gods in which Jupiter decides to accept Psyche and mercury gives her the drink of immortality. Then the wedding is celebrated in the painting on the left. The groupings of figures spread out before us like antique reliefs; the communal life of the gods is unfolded for us in a witty characterization of their all too human feelings.