While flipping through a manual of art history, I happened to dwell for a bit on the image “Amore e Psiche”, a sculptural group by Antonio Canova, presumably created sometime between 1787 and 1793 and kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris. I had so many thoughts running through my head, that I thought it was best to bring them to light.
Going beyond all of its iconic meanings and important historical references, what we see is a pair of lovers caught in the most basic act of every sexual fantasy: the kiss.
The thing I like to point out for those who look at this piece with me, is the area framed by the arms of “Psiche”: are we able to tell if the described moment is before or after the kiss? And furthermore, isn’t this question what makes the sculpture even more loaded with sensuality?
Personally, I happen to immerse myself with these lovers while imagining the heat of the moment, which seems to briefly take our breath away.
The kiss is the beginning of everything.
It’s a completely natural act that can take on various, significant meanings while saying many others; it’s that very moment when all of our expectations and imaginations are both created and destroyed. The kiss is a universal language meant to externalise our feelings towards somebody, whether it’s love, tenderness, intimacy, or sexuality. Relationships are created around a kiss, and often, it proves to be a couple’s first form of intimacy, with physical consequences that shouldn’t be ignored by any means.
In fact, it seems that a forced and awkward kiss causes our bodies to produce cortisone, a stress hormone. On the contrary, a warranted and good kiss gives off not only dopamine and oxytocin hormones, but also kisspeptin, a real ‘kissing hormone’. A recent study done by Nature Communications explains how a kiss would be enough to activate certain neural circuits that can directly trigger sexual excitement and even hormones tied to sexual reproduction.
Going back to “Amore e Psiche”, then, it’s clear that the sensual tension contained in a breath-taking embrace communicates the natural sense of protection that we develop towards a person we care for.
The ambivalence given off by the satisfaction of a kiss—or even in the anticipation of a kiss—can be best interpreted with words from G.E Lessing (a contemporary from Canova):
“Awaiting pleasure is pleasure in itself.”