Orpheus and Eurydice

Artist: Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840–1917 Meudon)

Date: modeled probably before 1887, carved 1893

Culture: French, Paris

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: confirmed (wt. on pallet): 48 3/4 × 31 1/8 × 25 3/8 in., 914 lb. (123.8 × 79.1 × 64.5 cm, 414.6 kg)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910

Accession Number: 10.63.2

Description

Rodin’s calculated use of non finito carving lends gravitas to a key moment in a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. When the nymph Eurydice dies, her husband, the poet and lyre player Orpheus, descends to Hades to retrieve her. Orpheus convinces Pluto to allow Eurydice to follow him back to earth, provided that he not look at her until they reach the upper world. At the last moment, however, he looks back, and she vanishes forever into the underworld, here represented by the rough-hewn block of marble. Eurydice’s undefined hair remains at one with the block, in contrast to Orpheus’s fully modeled body, heightening the sense of risk in this moment of transformation.

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