Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden depicts a scene from Greek myth: the beautiful Psyche (whose name means "Soul" or "Breath of Life") entering the garden owned by Cupid, the god of Love.

Painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, the picture shows Psyche peering in wonder at the strange and beautiful scene in front of her: a palatial mansion among green lawns, graceful trees and a profusion of roses and other flowers, populated by Cupid's unseen servants.

John William Waterhouse was born in Italy to English parents. Although he returned to England in later life, the artist spent his formative years in Italy and this seems to have influenced his choice of subjects; Waterhouse often painted scenes from ancient Rome and from classical mythology. Although he began painting decades after the end of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood proper, Waterhouse became a passionate devotee of the Pre-Raphaelite style of art.

In the story, Psyche is cursed by the jealous Venus to marry a fire-breathing dragonlike mosntrosity. Cupid, the god of Love, is supposed to enact the curse but accidentally scratches himself with his own arrow. Instead of making Psyche fall in love with a terrifying monster, Cupid finds himself in love with Psyche.

Rather than accept a monster for a son-in-law, Psyche's family abandon her on a mountaintop to die. Instead, she finds herself carried away to a peaceful meadow. Nearby is a splendid mansion with a garden full of flowers, where Psyche is waited on by invisible servants who care for her every need. When night comes, her mysterious suitor arrives. It's too dark to see his face, but he's gentle and kind -- hardly the monster she's been led to expect. She agrees to marry him and he spends the night with her but is gone when she wakes up. This becomes Psyche's married life: she spends every night with her new husband, although he never permits her to see his face.