Dinner Plate with Orpheus and Eurydice
Datelate 18th-early 19th century
Mediumglazed porcelain, enamels, gilding
Dimensions : 1 1/8 x 9 x 9 in. (2.86 x 22.86 x 22.86 cm)
Credit LineGift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton
LabelIn Greek mythology, Orpheus was the son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope. After his wife Eurydice was killed by a poisonous snake, Orpheus traveled to the underworld where he enchanted Hades, the god of death, with his beautiful singing voice and skillful lyre playing. Hades agreed that Eurydice could follow Orpheus back to the realm of the living, but only on the condition that Orpheus never look back at Eurydice during the return journey. As he drew closer to the boundary of the underworld, Orpheus began to doubt that Eurydice was behind him so he sneaked a backward glance. Eurydice was there, but because Orpheus broke the trust required by Hades, she was immediately pulled back into the underworld and Orpheus lost his chance to be together with her again. The design on this plate is executed in black enamels so that it mimics the aesthetic effects of a drawing or engraving. No factory mark appears on the plate, indicating that it was likely created by an independent artist working on commission for a wealthy patron. The lack of wear on the painting suggests that it may have been used by its original owner more for display than for serving food.