• Landscape with Orpheus and Euridice

Landscape with Orpheus and Euridice

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Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice
Artist: Nicolas Poussin
Oil painting on canvas; Size: 124x200cm; Louvre, Paris.

Painted in the early 1650s, it was commissioned by Jean Pointel, the artist's friend and patron, and represents a landscape painting in Poussin's late manner. The scene portrayed, not a common one in the iconography of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, is the moment when the girl is bitten by a serpent, recounted in Book X of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Hymen, god of marriage, is summoned by Orpheus to the banks of a river to celebrate his wedding to Eurydice. But the ceremony is not a happy one, and Hymen's torch goes out, causing a great cloud of smoke to rise above the castle where the wedding is being held (Poussin represents it as a fortified building that closely resembles Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome). While Eurydice is walking through the meadows with the nymphs to hear Orpheus's lyre, she is bitten by a snake and dies. The composition, an example of Poussin's late style, after 1648, is closed on the right by a group of trees and opens in the middle onto a distant landscape, while the shaded area in the foreground contrasts with the warm light that illuminates the central section of the picture. Nature is represented as a rational, almost architectural construction, and the interest of the painter is focused not so much on the narration of the episode as on the search for an ideal harmony of composition.

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