Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Orpheus Loses Eurydice Twice

Nicolas Poussin
Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice
oil on canvas
Louvre, Paris

Octave Lacour after George Frederick Watts
Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1886-91
British Museum

Sebald Beham
ca. 1520-25
British Museum

Agostino Veneziano
Orpheus with Cerberus
British Museum


    Ye powers, who under earth your realms extend,
To whom all mortals must one day descend;
If here 'tis granted sacred truth to tell;
I come not, curious, to explore your hell;
Nor come to boast (by vain ambition fir'd)
How Cerberus at my approach retir'd.
My wife alone I seek; for her lov'd sake
These terrors I support, this journey take,
She luckless wandering, or by fate misled,
Chanc'd on a lurking viper's crest to tread;
The vengeful beast inflam'd with fury starts,
And through her heel his deathful venom darts.
Thus was she snatch'd untimely to her tomb;
Her growing years cut short, and springing bloom.
Long I my loss endeavour'd to sustain,
And strongly strove, but strove, alas! in vain:
At length I yielded, won by mighty love:
Well known is that omnipotence above!
But here, I doubt, his unfelt influence fails;
And yet a hope within my heart prevails,
That here, e'en here, he has been known of old;
At least if truth be by tradition told;
If fame of former rapes belief may find,
You both by love, and love alone, were join'd.
Now by the horrors which these realms surround;
By the vast chaos of these depths profound;
By the sad silence which eternal reigns
O'er all the waste of these wide-stretching plains;
Let me again Eurydice receive,
Let fate her quickspun thread of life re-weave.

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by William Congreve (1717)

Anonymous Swiss Goldsmith
Snuffbox with Orpheus, Eurydice, Persephone, Pluto, Cerberus
gold, enamel
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop
Orpheus and Eurydice leaving the Underworld
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
Orpheus leading Eurydice from the Underworld
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Orpheus and Eurydice
ca. 1510-27
British Museum

They called forth Eurydice who was as yit among
The newcome Ghosts, and limped of her wound. Her husband tooke
Her with condicion that he should not backe uppon her looke,
Untill the tyme that hee were past the bounds of Limbo quyght:
Or else to lose his gyft. They tooke a path that steepe upryght
Rose darke and full of foggye mist. And now they were within
A kenning of the upper earth, when Orphye did begin
To dowt him lest shee followed not, and through an eager love
Desyrous for to see her, he his eyes did backward move.
Immediately shee slipped backe. He retching out his hands,
Desyrous to bee caught and for to ketch her grasping stands.
But nothing save the slippry aire (unhappy man) he caught.
Shee dying now the second tyme complaynd of Orphye naught.
For why what had shee to complayne, onlesse it were of love?
Which made her husband backe agen his eyes uppon her move?
Her last farewell shee spake so soft, that scarce he heard the sound,
And then revolted to the place in which he had her found . . .

– from Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding (1567)

Ubaldo Gandolfi
Orpheus looking back at Eurydice
before 1781
Morgan Library, New York

Antonio Canova
Museo Correr, Venice

Timoteo Viti
before 1523
British Museum

Alessandro Padovanino
Orpheus enchanting the Animals
 before 1649
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Jacob Hoefnagel
Orpheus charming the Animals
watercolor and gouache on vellum
Morgan Library, New York

Nicolas de Bruyn
Orpheus and  the Animals
British Museum