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Panels from the decoration of a palace interior, c.1527–8

The seven panels here are from a series of nine, consisting of three large scenes from the story of Cupid and Psyche and six narrow ornamental friezes. The large panel depicts Psyche exposed on a rock. Two other large panels, not part of this display, depict Psyche discovers Cupid and the Reception of Psyche in Olympus. The three large scenes illustrate key moments in the story of Cupid and Psyche, from Apuleius’s Golden Ass. Cupid has fallen in love with Psyche. The oracle of Apollo tells Psyche’s parents that her future husband is a monster and orders them to abandon her on a mountain. Here, Polidoro shows Psyche isolated on a rock in the sea; her parents are being rowed back to the shore. The low viewpoint and broad technique suggest that the panels could have formed a frieze high on the walls. This love story would have been an appropriate subject for the decoration of a bedchamber. They may have decorated a room in the Neapolitan palace of the poet Bernardino Rota. Polidoro was inspired by the recently discovered interiors of Nero’s Roman palace, the Domus Aurea. The antique decorative schemes, full of fantastic and playful images, were known as grottesche after their grottolike place of origin. The lively subject matter, the use of framing lines, and the way in which the frieze-like arrangements of figures and animals are silhouetted on a base, which floats against a warm-toned background, all derive from this source. Acquired by Charles I No. 5

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