Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Death of Orpheus

Nymphs listening to the songs of Orpheus by Charles Francois Jalabert, 1853.

Today's post is a continuation of the story of Orpheus, specifically, his rather gruesome death.

After Eurydice's death Orpheus scorned all women. Some did not take kindly to this, particularly the bacchanals (female followers of Bacchus).
These women mobbed poor Orpheus beating him blood and tearing him to pieces.

Mort d'Orphée by Albrect Dürer, 1494.

Death of Orpheus by Emile Levy, 1866.


Orpheus’ limbs lay scattered around; but his lyre and
                his head
were thrown into the river Hebrus. Afloat mid-stream –
                oh wonder! –
the instrument uttered a plaintive moan, the lifeless
                tongue
emitted a feeble dirge and the banks re-echoed in
                sorrow.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11.50-53

Nymphs finding the head of Orpheus by John William Waterhouse, 1905.

Orphee Mort by Jean Delville, 1893.

Orpheus' head eventually washed  up on the shore of Lesbos.

Orpheus by Gustave Moreau, 1865.

Meanwhile...

Orpheus’ shade passed under the earth. He recognized
                all
the places he’d seen before. As he searched the Elýsian
                Fields,
he found the wife he had lost and held her close in his arms.
At last the lovers could stroll together, side by side –
or she went ahead and he followed; then Orpheus ventured
                in front
and knew he could now look back on his own Eurýdice
                safely.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11.61-66

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