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TitleOrpheus and Eurydice 'But give them me - the mouth, the eyes, the brows' (Painting)
RepositoryLDLTH: Leighton House Museum
CollectionNameLeighton Paintings
Ref NoLH/P/OT/0392
ProductionCreationLeighton; Lord; Frederic (1830-1896); 1st Baron of Stretton; painter, draughtsman and sculptor
ProvenanceAlfred Brooks, sold by him, Christie's 17 May 1879, lot 103, purchased by Sully for £692; Purchased by Frances Reckitt (by 1897); Purchased by Terence Rowe; Purchased by Jerry Norman (1959); Sold to Leighton House Museum (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) by the Norman Gallery, January 1960 for £30 0s 0d.


DescriptionTwo figures, three quarter length. Eurydice is represented clinging anxiously to Orpheus who faces the viewer, whilst attempting to force her away. Housed within an English 19th century laurel leaf frame with inner slip.
InscriptionAdhered to bottom centre of frame, printed label reading: 'FROM THOMAS M'LEAN, / PRINT SELLER AND PUBLISHER / Dealer in works of Art, / No. 7, HAYMARKET, LONDON W., / Next door to the Haymarket Theatre'.
MaterialsOil on canvas
DimensionsFramed Height: 1683mm;
Framed Width: 1510mm.
Unframed Height: 1273mm;
Unframed Width: 1100mm.
Published In NoteBarrington, Emilie, ‘The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic, Lord Leighton’, George Allen, London, 1906, volume II, p. 370; Corkran, Alice, ‘Frederic Leighton’, Methuen & Co., London, 1904, pp. 57, 185; Gaunt, William, 'Victorian Olympus', Jonathan Cape, London, 1952, p. 78; Jones, Stephen, et al., ‘Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)’, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996, p.30, fig.14; Newall, Christopher, ‘The Art of Lord Leighton’, Phaidon Press Ltd., London, 1990, pp.48, 57; Ormond, Leonée and Richard, ‘Lord Leighton’, Yale University Press, London, 1975, pp. 61,77,86,89,123,155 [102], plate101; Ormond, Richard, 'Leighton and his contemporaries' in 'Frederic Leighton 1830-1896', Royal Academy of Arts, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, London 1996, pp26, 29; Rhys, Ernest, ‘Frederic Lord Leighton, Late President of the Royal Academy of Arts: An Illustrated Record of his Life and Work’, George Bell and Sons, London, 1900, pp.21-22; Stanley, Edgcumbe, 'Lord Leighton of Stretton, P.R.A', Walter Scott Publishing Co. Ltd, London, 1906, pp. 77, 137; Witemeyer, Hugh, 'Leighton's Six Pictures in 1862',
NotesThe exhibition of ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ (1864) marked the beginning of Leighton's mature classical phase. A continuation from the same subject painted 8 years earlier in 'The Triumph of Music', this work shows Orpheus winning back his wife from Hades through the power of his music. The later picture shows a later stage of the story – Orpheus breaks the rule forbidding him to look at Eurydice before leaving the underworld, and so loses her forever. In this rendering, Eurydice passionately forces herself upon Orpheus who is desperate to avoid looking at her face. Amongst nineteenth century artists, the Orpheus myth stood as a symbol for the immortality of the artist and his art. Robert Browning was one of the few people to admire ‘The Triumph of Music’ and when Leighton began his second Orpheus subject in 1863, Browning’s interest quickened. When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1864, it helped to establish Leighton’s reputation. The sense of greatness and power expressed through the composition was remarked upon admirably by the critics. However, the painting has since been faulted for what some see as a rather frozen theatricality of the figures, as well as a psychological and sexual ambiguity. The first criticism can perhaps be explained through Leighton’s profound love of sculpture, the roundness of form, and his desire to make this roundness clear to the eye. Some of his very best works therefore, share the same plastic quality that belongs to those executed in marble and stone.

Cultural significance: Leighton’s subjects from the Greek myth feature both male and female protagonists and centre on themes of loss, abandonment and revenge. Many involve one or two figures only. They exemplify Leighton’s advanced ability to manipulate the attributes and attitude of the figure in order to express a particular myth, without the apparatus of a narrative story
ExhibitionHistory1864, Royal Academy of Arts, London, catalogue number 217; 4 January to 13 March 1897, 'Winter Exhibition, of the works by the Late Lord Leighton of Stretton', Royal Academy of Arts, London catalogue number 61; October 1969, 'High Victorian Art: An Exhibition in Conjunction with the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the York Art Gallery', Leighton House Museum, London, catalogue number 63; 30 May to 13 September 2009, 'Frederic, Lord Leighton: An English Artist', Villa Stuck, Munich, catalogue number 10; 8 to 12 October 2009, 'Frederic, Lord Leighton: Treasures from Leighton House Museum', Art London, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London; 4 April to 28 June 2014, 'The Artists Rifles: From Pre-Raphaelites to Passchendaele', Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton
Legal StatusNon Public Record
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThis material is accessible by prior appointment only
CopyrightThe Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Related RecordDP/RA/04/1125
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