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Niccolò dell'Abate, The Death of Eurydice

Key facts
Full title The Death of Eurydice
Artist Niccolò dell'Abate
Artist dates about 1509/12 - 1571
Date made about 1552-71
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 189.2 × 237.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Art Fund, 1941
Inventory number NG5283
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Death of Eurydice
Niccolò dell'Abate

The story of Eurydice and Aristaeus is told by the Roman poet Virgil. In the far distance Orpheus, Eurydice’s husband, charms wild animals with his music. Three nymphs gather flowers, unaware that the shepherd Aristaeus is pursuing Eurydice. She is bitten by a snake as she runs away. Identifiable by her blue drapery, Eurydice appears again, lying dead on the ground. In the middle distance, Aristaeus consults his mother Cyrene concerning the death of his bees. The sea-god Proteus, lying with his overflowing urn on the ground, explained to Aristaeus that the disaster in the hives was a punishment for his pursuit of Eurydice.

This picture was probably painted in France where Niccolò dell'Abate worked from 1552 onwards. The landscape is truly spectacular – golden clouds filter sunlight and shadow across a multitude of fantastic classical buildings, spires and columns to magical effect. The landscape expresses the emotional content of the story in a way that was quite new in French art.

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