Sleeping Cupid

Detail from Mauro Gandolfi (1764-1834), Non ti fidar che mai non dorme amore: ei chiude gli occhi allor che insidia un core = Do not trust that Love never sleeps or closes his eyes to what threatens the heart, ca. 1824. Engraving. Dedicated: Alla Signora Duchessa Litta di Belgiojoso, by Bettalli Fratelli. Graphic Arts Collection


The sleeping cupid, a symbol of chastity, has been a popular topic in art since the Renaissance, if not before. Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Robert Mapplethorpe are only a few of the many artists who used the figure of a young boy sleeping in their painting, sculpture, prints, and photographs.

The Graphic Arts Collection holds a lesser known print of a sleeping cupid by the Bolognese artist Mauro Gandolfi. Around the time he made this engraving, Gandolfi traveled to the United States and wrote a vivid account of his journey. Happily, a new edition was published in 2003 by Mimi Cazort, transcribing and translating into English Gandolfi’s description of the odd people he encountered in New York and along the East Coast.

Mauro Gandolfi (1764-1834) and Mimi Cazort, Mauro in America: an Italian artist visits the new world (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). Marquand ND 623.G271 C396 2003

Caravaggio, Sleeping Cupid, 1608. Oil on canvas, 72 × 105 cm. Florence: Pitti Palace. Photo: Scala, Florence.