Collection Online
Psyche in the Underworld

Psyche in the Underworld
(Psyché aux enfers)

oil on canvas
117.0 × 90.0 cm
inscribed in black paint l.l.: Ernest Hillemacher. 1865.
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Gustave Curcier Esq., 1872
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Exhibited Salon, Paris, 1865, no. 1047; collection of Gustave Curcier Esq. [1], of the wine importers Curcier & Adet, Melbourne, est. 1865, by 1872; by whom donated to the NGV, 1872[2].

[1] Curcier was born in France and emigrate to England in 1852.

[2] See ‘The new picture at the National Gallery’, in The Argus, Melbourne, Monday 29 January 1872, p. 6,

Exhibited Salon, Paris, 1865, no. 1047

Hillemacher chose the mythological tale of Psyche’s venture into the Underworld for his Paris Salon painting of 1865. Although Psyche was a mere mortal, her beauty incurred the jealousy of the goddess Venus who set Psyche a series of ordeals, including forcing her into the Underworld to obtain a portion of Persephone’s beauty. Here Psyche is crossing the river Styx, after which she will encounter Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Hades who lurks on the right hand side of the painting. Cerberus guards the gates of Hades and allows the dead to enter, but never leave. Psyche knows to feed Cerberus a small cake in order to return to the surface.


Location of stamp
Lower right quadrant of reverse of canvas
...DEFORGE CARPENTIER S../COULEURS FINES/ET TOILES a PEINDRE/Boulevard Montmartre 8/PARIS./Metier Bou...des Batignolles
Ink stencil
More Information
National Portrait Gallery