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“Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin

"Orpheus and Eurydice" by Auguste Rodin

“Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin

“Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin depicts the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Rodin shows Eurydice’s spirit floating in the underworld as Orpheus hesitates and turns to see if his beloved is following. An instant later, Eurydice will vanish as Orpheus broke Hades’s rule, to not look at his wife until they reached the light. This carved sculpture is the only marble example of this Rodin composition.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus fell in love and married Eurydice, a woman of beauty and grace. Unfortunately, a short time after the marriage, Eurydice was dancing with the Nymphs in the forest, where she was bitten by a snake and died instantly. Orpheus sang his grief with his lyre, and his sorrow and pain deeply touched both humans and gods.

Overcome, Orpheus decided to descend to Hades to see his wife. Orpheus, protected by the gods, went to Hades and played his lyre, melting even Hades’ cold heart. Hades told Orpheus that he could take Eurydice with him but under one condition. Eurydice would follow him while walking out to the light from the underworld caves, but he should not look at her before coming out to the light, or else he would lose her forever.

Orpheus was delighted and started to ascend back into the world. Unable to hear Eurydice’s footsteps, he began to think that he had been tricked. Eurydice was, in fact, behind him. Only a short distance away from the exit, Orpheus lost his faith and turned to see if Eurydice was following. She was behind him; however, she was whisked back to the dead. Eurydice was now trapped in Hades forever. Orpheus tried to return to the Underworld, but a man cannot enter the realm of Hades twice while alive.

Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin is generally considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modeled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remained one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.

Orpheus and Eurydice

  • Title:              Orpheus and Eurydice
  • Artist:            Auguste Rodin
  • Date:             Modelled ca. 1887, carved 1893
  • Culture:         French, Paris
  • Geography:   French
  • Medium:        Marble
  • Dimensions:  48 3/4 × 31 1/8 × 25 3/8 in., 856 lb. (123.8 × 79.1 × 64.5 cm, 388.3 kg)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Auguste Rodin

A Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

MET European Paintings Collection

MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

MET Greek and Roman Art Collection

MET Egyptian Art Collection

MET Asian Art Collection

MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection

MET American Wing Collection

MET Islamic Art Collection

MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection

MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection

MET Medieval Art Collection

MET Drawings and Prints Collection

MET Costume Institute Collection

MET Arms and Armor Collection

MET Photograph Collection

MET Musical Instrument Collection

Explore

Reflections

  • What is the moral of the Orpheus and Eurydice story?
  • Rodin often left parts of his sculptures with an unfinished surface. What is its effect on viewers?

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“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.”
– Auguste Rodin

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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