The story of Psyche as related in 'The Golden Ass' (IV-VI) by Apuleius tells how Cupid falls in love with Psyche but conceals his identity from her, visiting her only at night. Fearing he is an evil magician, she looks at him, although forbidden to do so. Cupid then abandons her. The moment shown by Claude, however, may be before Psyche has encountered Cupid, when, following her salvation from danger by the West Wind, she was 'qualifying the troubles and thoughts of her restless mind'. Alternatively, it may be after she has been left by her two sisters who attempted to persuade Psyche to murder her beloved.
The picture was painted in 1664 for the Roman aristocrat, Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna. It influenced John Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale' (1819).