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Panel - Psyche at her Toilet (from Hill Hall, Essex)
  • Psyche at her Toilet (from Hill Hall, Essex)
    de Heere, Lucas
  • Enlarge image

Psyche at her Toilet (from Hill Hall, Essex)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Essex (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1575 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    de Heere, Lucas (maker)
    Coxie, Michiel the elder, born 1499 - died 1592 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    distemper on plaster

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lord Edward Hay

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case WN

Object Type
This is a rare example of an English wall painting of the period. Houses owned by the gentry and merchants were often decorated with murals during the 16th and 17th centuries, mostly in imitation of wall hangings. However, few figurative paintings survive. They were not considered worth preserving and were often overpainted, or even destroyed, during subsequent redecoration.

Subjects Depicted
The painting includes an episode from the story of Cupid and Psyche. This is a famous tale in the Roman novel now called The Golden Ass, written by Lucius Apuleius in the 2nd century AD. It was first translated into English by William Arlington in 1566. The scene shows Psyche at her toilet, accompanied by her assistant.

Lucas de Heere, who possibly painted these scenes, was born in Ghent, Flanders (now Belgium). He had a distinguished career on the Continent, working as a painter, tapestry designer, draughtsman and poet. However, his Calvinist (or Protestant) sympathies led him to spend the years 1567-1576 in England.

Hill Hall was owned by Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577), Secretary of State to Edward VI and later to Elizabeth I. Other sections of this decorative scheme can still be seen at Hill Hall (English Heritage).

Physical description

Coloured distemper on a thin coat of fine plaster

Place of Origin

Essex (made)


ca. 1575 (made)


de Heere, Lucas (maker)
Coxie, Michiel the elder, born 1499 - died 1592 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

distemper on plaster


Height: 101.6 cm, Width: 95.8 cm

Object history note

Possibly by Lucas de Heere (born in Ghent, about 1534, died, possibly in Ghent, 1584); based on a print by the Master of the Die, using designs by Michiel Coxcie the Elder (born in Mechelen, Belgium 1499, died there in 1592)
Painted at Hill Hall, Theydon Mount, Essex

Descriptive line

Painted plaster panel, Psyche at her toilet, painted after Michiel Coxie the elder, made possibly by Lucas d'Heere, ca. 1575, Essex

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This is a fragment from a room (shown in the photograph of about 1937) that was once entirely decorated with frescoes showing the love story of Cupid and Psyche. They were deliberately painted to represent hanging tapestry. The depiction of the ancient gods naked shows a renewed interest in classical sculpture. Naked men evoked the heroism of the ancient world, naked women it passionate love affairs. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Based on a set of engravings by the Master of the Die and Agostino Veneziano after original designs by Michiel Coxie the Elder (born in Mechelen, Belgium 1499, died there in 1592), or possibly from a later imitation of these engravings by J. A. Ducerceau.

Painted at Hill Hall, Theydon Mount, Essex.


Distemper; Plaster


Interiors; British Galleries; Myths & Legends


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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