Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus, a Thracian singer and musician, married the nymph Eurydice, who died from the bite of a snake on the same day of her wedding. Desperate for his wife’s untimely death, after planting her on earth, he decided to go down to her underworld to obtain her return. His plea was accepted on one condition: he should not have looked at her until they had come out of the Avernus valley, otherwise the grace would have been in vain. However, Orpheus could not resist the temptation. What Frederic Leighton depicts, apparently an expression of contempt, is actually his repulsion for his own actions. The awareness of having condemned his love for him. Maybe if he doesn’t look at her any more than she does, Hades won’t be aware of her transgression. Eurydice, on the other hand, has accepted her fate and tries to comfort the distraught Orpheus. She wants her to know that she will accept her fate. 1864, oil on canvas, Leighton House Museum, London.

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