by Kristie LeVangie
I’m plagued today with the idea of Cupid. I recently went for a walk through the local art museum. I became entranced with the artful depictions of this little weapon-yielding, winged, naked baby put in charge of such a monumental thing as Love.
Each Renaissance-period oil-soaked canvas shows an angelic toddler with tiny white wings and a barren chubby body. He parades his nakedness in insinuating innocence. His right hand cradles a small bow while arrows of attraction and repulsion are gathered precariously in the small quiver affixed to his back.
I guess I am most intrigued by the contrary nature of little Cupid’s depiction. How can this Romantic depiction be so contrary to the actual effects of this catastrophic calamity called Love?
There is something unsettling about the notion that a baby is in charge of the “slings and arrows” of love, but it is true that he often has bad aim. We would expect that from a weak-muscled cherub. But I would argue against his innocence as his archery often shows a malicious disregard for its target. Such carelessness has at times altered history and caused the downfalls of empires.
The innocence of the dear child runs counter to the human manipulation and torrid storms of relationships. Where is the evil Loki who runs around mischievously fired enamored arrows into complete strangers, mismatched personalities and forbidden targets?
Cupid is never depicted with a sly grin, a slanted eyebrow or a devilish thought.
Cupid is no better than a serial killer who decides upon his target, stalks his prey, and often attacks them in their most vulnerable state. Such was one painting where the little boy was climbing upon a concrete bench in which a maiden slept peacefully. And according to the artist’s perception in this painting, we have little resistance to his mayhem. How would we defend ourselves with our eyes closed as they so often are when it comes to Love?
This painting isn’t the same one I’m referring to (as it depicts Cupid as a man), but it’s close.
Cupid himself was unable to stay with his love, Psyche. According to legend, Psyche was a mortal. Cupid fell in love with her but she was forbidden to look at him. One night dying from curiosity, she lit a candle and gazed at her lover in the dark candlelit room. As she stood admiring his form, she accidentally spilled a bit of candle wax on him. He awoke in anger that she had disobeyed and fled leaving her alone. There’s more to the story, but it’s funny that even the epitome of Love (he was Aphrodite’s son, for truth’s sake) found walking away a better answer to staying and working things out.
And what becomes of the maiden in our painting? Little does she know that upon awakening, she will be straddled with a short courtship, ensuing financial disagreements, maintaining a household complete with multitudes of children, and keeping a watchful eye on a potentially straying husband. Little does she know that her life, and her innocence for that matter, will now be shattered, and her heart will grow a little more saddened with each passing day at the futility of it all. And little does she know that upon awakening, she will be fevered with someone who may or may not return her affection, will underestimate her value, and will always be keeping a roaming eye for something better to come along.
Little does she know…and little do we until we’ve tangled with the fat little man they call Cupid.
…Of course, this is just my jaded opinion. 😉