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Image of 'The Death of Eurydice' by Niccolo dell'Abate, about 1552-71.

'The Death of Eurydice' by Niccolo dell'Abate, about 1552-71

This painting depicts the first part of Virgil's myth about the death of Eurydice, a tree nymph and wife of Orpheus. Aristaeus, a bee keeper and son of Apollo (the sun God), fell in love with Eurydice. In the picture we can see him chasing her. Running away she stepped on a poisonous snake and died, also shown in the painting, and was carried away to the underworld. In a fit of revenge Eurydice's sisters killed all of Aristaeus's bees, which later returned with help from the sea God, Proteus, seen on the far right.

In the next part of the story a distressed Orpheus travels down to the underworld to bring back his wife. His journey was long and arduous. Eventually Orpheus was granted his wish to return to the world above with Eurydice, but only on the condition that he did not look back on the way out to see if she was following. At the very last moment he could not resist temptation and she vanished. Orpheus spent the rest of his life playing his lyre with such emotion that all the animals came and listened. We can see him doing this on the hill in the background on the left-hand side.


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