Orpheus Leading Eurydice of the Underworld

Camille Corot • Painting, 1861, 112.3×137.1 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape, Mythological scene
Style of art: Romanticism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1861
Size: 112.3×137.1 cm
Artwork in selections: 47 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Orpheus Leading Eurydice of the Underworld»

Picture by Camille Corot "Orpheus, leading Eurydice from the underworld" - perhaps the most exciting of all the artistic incarnations of the ancient myth. The piercing tenderness of her finest silver-green gamut is comparable only with the violin overture to the opera Orpheus and Euryridic by Christoph Willibald Gluck.

According to the myth reproduced in Virgil's Georgik, the forest nymph Eurydice was conquered by the music and singing of Orpheus in love with her. But the happiness of mutual love did not last long. When Eurydice with dryad-friends drove round dances in a grove, she was stung by a deadly snake. Lost his wife Orpheus was inconsolable. He decides to go to the underworld and beg at Hades and Persephone to release Eurydice with him. His music helped him to be persuasive. Only one condition was put forward by the legendary singer: do not look back - otherwise Eurydice will die. But Orpheus could not bear it. He turned to make sure that the beloved was following him, and he lost Eurydice, now forever.

Camille Corot has a less famous picture. "Orpheus mourns Eurydice", drawing the penultimate act of an accomplished drama (the final of which will be the tearing of Orpheus by the distracted Bacchantes). And the picture “Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld” shows the viewer the moment when hope is still alive, when Orpheus holds his lyre in his high hand, like a guiding torch illuminating the way, and the dark shadows of the underworld melt in the pre-dawn fog.

The landscape for Corot in this picture is, surprisingly, much more important than the main characters. Corot was a true virtuoso in the transfer of transitional states of nature - these fogs, which are about to disperse, but can thicken threateningly. Or of these short minutes, which are no longer night, but also not morning yet - no wonder he was called the “singer of the dawn”, and the president of the French Republic, Napoleon III, joked: “To understand this artist, you have to get up too early”.

There is nothing frightening or harsh in the depiction of the Kingdom of shadows - only a ghostlyness, only transparency. To achieve this incredible fluctuation of Koro, valér helped - the finest transitions of tones within the same color. Known aphorism of the artist "Valery - first of all!". Koro will still be called the "poet of the trees." His trees are special, recognizable. They are written with a thin brush, strokes and smaller, and larger. The different size and density of the brushstroke make it possible to show how the crown of the trees is agitated, how the leaves tremble in the wind. We are looking at a fixed canvas and - oh, a miracle! - we feel the vibration of the air and the thrill of foliage.

After impressionism, this is no longer taken to be surprised. But Corot began writing several decades before the Impressionists' expositions, and he himself was wary of them: he called him a “gang”, dissuaded his pupil and namesake Camille Pissarro participate in their exhibitions. And yet, Corot's lyrical landscape makes him the closest forerunner of Impressionism.

Corot had to carry a lot of attacks for loyalty to his own manner, for his unplanned avant-garde. They long and arrogantly neglected the official Salon. Koro's paintings were hung in the darkest halls of the Salon's exhibitions, where his valiers were difficult to see, and it was insultingly claimed about his magnificent trees that this "Some kind of dirty lather".

In fact, living trees in the realm of the dead are a wonderful picturesque find by Corot. He saw in the creation of landscapes the highest and only goal of his own life. For her, he renounced the joys of marriage - in fact, deliberately refused the happiness of Orpheus and Eurydice. "I have, - admitted Corot, - there is only one goal that I intend to follow all my life - to paint landscapes. This decision is not subject to change and does not allow me to tie the knot ".

Author: Anna Yesterday