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Pair of Castelli plaques, early 18th century, decorated in blue, yellow, orange, olive green and manganese purple, one depicting Hippomenes and Atalanta racing through a forested landscape with two putti in flight overhead, the female huntress stooping to pick up a golden apple dropped by her suitor; the other with Cupid and Psyche in a woodland clearing, Psyche asleep and surrounded by three putti while Cupid looks on with his bow and quiver.
According to Greek myth, Atalanta was a swift-footed huntress who declared that any suitors must beat her in a footrace. A youth named Hippomenes, who was hopelessly in love with her and desperate to win her hand in marriage, asked Aphrodite for help and received three golden apples. By dropping them one by one during the race, as instructed by the Goddess of Love, he distracted Atalanta and managed to outrun her. The story was retold by various writers, including Ovid in his Metamorphoses. The tale of Cupid and Psyche, another favoured theme in Renaissance art, tells of Aphrodite’s jealous anger at the beauty of the mortal Psyche. She sends her son, Cupid, to intervene and cause Psyche to fall in love with whatever despicable man she happens across. Instead, Cupid himself falls in love with the beauty and, despite various impediments which unfold, the two are eventually granted permission to marry.