Inventory number
P01667
Author
Rubens, Peter Paul (and Workshop)
Title
Orpheus and Eurydice
Chronology
1636 - 1637
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimensions
196,5 cm x 247,5 cm
School
Flemish
Theme
Mythology
On display
No
Provenance
Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, sala de conversación, 1772, nº 1001; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, antecámara de las señoras infantas, 1794, nº 1001; Academia, Sala Reservada, hasta 1827, nº 59)

Orpheus descends into the Underworld to recover his wife, Eurydice, who died after being bitten by a serpent. Pluto and Proserpina, the god and goddess of the underworld, are so moved by the music of his lyre that they accede to his request. The only condition they impose is that he contains his desire and not look at his beloved until they have both fully departed the underworld.

On the basis of this story from Ovid's Metamorphoses (book X, 1-59), Rubens designs a very balanced painting. On the right are Pluto and Proserpina, whose gesture warns Orpheus of the conditions of their agreement. Below them is Cerberus, the dog who guards Hell. On the left, the deathly white body of Eurydice, still showing the serpent's bite, contrasts with the living body of Orpheus. He is depicted at the very moment when his feeling of love provokes him to look back at his beloved. This is just before she dissolves into smoke because he has not heeded the God's warning.

In making this painting for the Torre de la Parada, Rubens based some figures on earlier models. Pluto is based on a figure by Michelangelo which Rubens had copied in his notebook during his trip to Italy, while the Eurydice's chaste gesture is based on some sculptures from Antiquity.

 
Ministerio de Cultura. Gobierno de España; abre en ventana nueva
España es cultura Spain is culture
Portal de la transparencia. Gobierno de España
Copyright © 2015 Museo Nacional del Prado.
Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23
Madrid 28014
Tel. +34 91 330 2800.
Todos los derechos reservados