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Roelandt Savery, Orpheus

Key facts
Full title Orpheus
Artist Roelandt Savery
Artist dates 1576 - 1639
Date made 1628
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 53 × 81.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by S.J. Ainsley, 1874
Inventory number NG920
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Roelandt Savery

There’s something magical about this enchanting picture, in its unearthly, misty colours, deep shadows and strange beasts. The musician fixing us with an enquiring eye is Orpheus. His story comes from one of the legends told by the Roman poet Ovid in his book Metamorphoses.

Orpheus' skill was so great that all the beasts and birds came to hear him play. Even the gods themselves listened, beguiled, and the poet tells how the trees moved from the forests to hear him, and to give him shade from the sun.

Savery beguiles us with the animals he paints, taking us to an idyllic landscape where animals, usually hostile to each other, live harmoniously under the influence of Orpheus’ music.

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