Orpheus and Eurydice

Style of Nicolas Poussin (French, third quarter 17th century)
Oil on canvas
47 1/2 x 70 3/4 in. (120.7 x 179.7 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
Not on view
General Craig, London (sale, Christie's, London, April 18, 1812, no. 73, for 181 gns.); D. E. Benardaki, Saint Petersburg; Earls of Dunmore, Dunmore Park, near Falkirk (by 1835–at least 1857); Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1907; purchased in Italy through A. E. Harnisch with MMA 29.100.21 for 15,000 lire the pair); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929)
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 600 (as by Poussin, lent by Lady Dunmore).

London. British Institution. 1866, no. 21 (as by Poussin, lent by the Earl of Dunmore).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition," May 8–August 1920, unnumbered cat. (p. 10, as by Poussin, lent anonymously).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 91 (as by Poussin) [2nd ed., 1958, no. 178, as by an Imitator of Poussin].

Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization," December 15, 1948–January 31, 1949, not in catalogue.

Jacksonville, Fla. Cummer Gallery of Art. "The Age of Louis XIII," October 29–December 7, 1969, no. 41.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A434.

A Catalogue of One Hundred Original Drawings by Claude Lorraine and Nicholas Poussin Collected by Sir Thomas Lawrence, The Lawrence Gallery. Exh. cat., Messrs. Woodburn's Gallery. London, 1835, p. 19, relate this painting, in the collection of Earl Dunmore, to a landscape drawing exhibited as no. 63 (now Musée Condé, Chantilly), erroneously identifying one of the figures as Apollo; apparently attribute both the drawing and painting to Poussin.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 8, London, 1837, p. 155, no. 303, lists under Poussin a landscape with the subject of Orpheus and Eurydice, sold with the collection of Geneal Craig in 1812.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 454, lists as Poussin this composition of Orpheus and Eurydice, then in the collection of the Earl of Dunmore; notes that it differs from the Louvre painting of the subject in both its landscape and figures, but considers it not less fine.

W. Bürger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art en Angleterre. Brussels, 1860, p. 331, mentions having seen this painting of Orpheus and Eurydice by Poussin in the Manchester exhibition of 1857 and comments on its magnificent landscape.

Émile Magne. Nicolas Poussin, premier peintre du roi, 1594–1665. Brussels, 1914, p. 202, no. 89, erroneously associates it with a painting in the 1829 Lethière sale.

"French, English, and American Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (September 1920), pp. 202–3, notes that this painting was lent to the Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition with a companion piece [MMA 29.100.21, Mercury and Battus], attributes both pictures to Poussin, and maintains that each represents an episode from the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), pp. 464, 467, ill. p. 448, as by Poussin; sees this and MMA 29.100.21 as the greatest pictures in the Havemeyer collection.

H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 162–63, ill., as by Poussin.

Anthony Blunt. "The Heroic and the Ideal Landscape in the Work of Nicolas Poussin." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 7 (July–December 1944), p. 165, describes this picture as possibly a copy of a lost Poussin or an imitation by Millet.

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 78–79, ill., attributes it to an imitator of Poussin; notes that a painting of this subject by Poussin is in the Louvre, and that a closely related composition—with the two nymphs at the left reversed—is in the Musée Condé, Chantilly; mentions the pen-and-wash drawing in the Musée Condé that closely follows our picture and suggests that this drawing and our painting record a lost work by Poussin himself.

Doris Wild. "Les tableaux de Poussin à Chantilly." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 51 (January 1958), p. 24, attributes our painting and the Musée Condé drawing to the same follower of Poussin; discusses the derivation of the motif of the two nymphs.

Walter Friedlaender and Anthony Blunt, ed. The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin: Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 4, London, 1963, pp. 52–53, question Sterling's [Ref. 1955] hypothesis that the Chantilly drawing and our painting go back to a lost prototype by Poussin; sees the Chantilly drawing as earlier than the MMA composition and possibly a modello for it by the same hand, noting that the style of the former is not incompatible with Gaspard; view the MMA/Chantilly composition as a whole as a pastiche of Poussinesque fragments, but suggest that part of the landscape derives from a lost drawing by Poussin representing a landscape with a blazing castle, of which there is an exact copy by another hand in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Anthony Blunt. The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: A Critical Catalogue. [London], 1966, p. 176, no. R91, states that it is now universally regarded as by an imitator.

Erich Schleier. Letter to Everett Fahy. October 18, 1968, as by J. F. van Bloemen.

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, pp. 209–10 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

Jan Bialostocki. Letter to Olga Raggio. May 14, 1971, notes that a picture from the circle of Poussin, at the Wilanów Palace, has an identical composition; believes ours is later, "18th century?," and suggests the example in Poland is perhaps closer to the original, but also by an imitator of Poussin; mentions that a drawing of the composition, also by a Poussin imitator, is in Chantilly.

Jacques Thuillier. L'opera completa di Poussin. Milan, 1974, pp. 125, 131, no. R118, ill., as by an artist from the second half of the 17th century.

Doris Wild. Nicolas Poussin: Leben, Werk, Exkurse. Zürich, 1980, p. 142.

Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, p. 370, no. 6, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].

Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 178, 255, ill.

Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 370, no. A434, ill.

Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665: Catalogue raisonné des dessins. Milan, 1994, vol. 1, pp. 840, 1070, calls the drawing in Chantilly (R258) a copy of this picture.

Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat. Nicolas Poussin: La collection du musée Condé à Chantilly. 1994, p. 212, ill.

Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 82, 86, 88.

Pierre Rosenberg in Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 240 [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007].

This painting and one identical in composition in the Wilanów Palace, Warsaw, show certain similarities with a Poussin of the same subject in the Louvre, Paris. The pair of nymphs, reversed, appear in Poussin's Apollo and Daphne (Louvre) and his Landscape with Two Nymphs and a Snake (Musée Condé, Chantilly). The composition is related to that of the Chantilly painting. Also at the Musée Condé is a pen and wash drawing that closely follows our picture. Sterling (1955) suggests that this drawing and our painting record a lost original by Poussin. Friedlaender and Blunt (1963) publish a second drawing (Hermitage, Leningrad), which they suggest is an exact copy of a lost drawing by Poussin upon which the backgrounds of our painting and the Musée Condé drawing are partially based. They see our picture as a pastiche of Poussinesque elements. Sterling, Friedlaender, and Blunt were apparently not aware of the Wilanów painting.