British, 1859 - 1928
Eurydice sinking back to Hades
Reproduced in 'Henrietta Rae (Mrs. Ernest Normand)' by Arthur Fish, Cassell and Company, 1905.
From the mid 1880s, Henrietta Rae and her husband Ernest Normand lived in Holland Park Road, next door to Val Prinsep, and next but one to Frederick Leighton. They became friends with both artists, and Leighton's influence can be seen in this picture.
From 'Henrietta Rae', pp 43-45:
"Two canvases were laid down for the Royal Academy of 1887, and the subjects selected for them were "Eurydice Sinking Back to Hades" and "A Naiad."
The former was the most important canvas yet attempted, both in point of subject and size - its dimensions being seven feet by four feet.
It is an original and daring attempt to illustrate the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The moment chosen for illustration is that when, as the result of Orpheus's backward glance, Eurydice sinks down, lifeless and inert, to the depths from which she had so joyfully risen at the bidding of her hero. It was a difficult subject to render on canvas, and one from which many would have shrunk intuitively; but Mrs. Normand is at her best when difficulties are in the way, and Eurydice was, without question, her most successful work up to this point.
Eurydice is shown in profile in the centre of the forefront of the picture; one hand is extended convulsively to clutch at the jutting rock; her legs are doubling lifelessly and her body is swaying backwards into the dark gulf from which she has but just emerged. Her fast closing eyes are passionately fixed on Orpheus, who is seen over the corner of the rock higher up the path, turning the fateful glance which sent his beloved back to Hades. The beauty of the figure of Eurydice, and the delicacy of the flesh painting, formed a veritable triumph for Mrs. Normand. The picture was hung in the sixth room at the Academy, and attracted considerable attention. It afterwards passed into the collection of Mr. G. L. Beeforth, of Scarborough, by whose courtesy we are enabled to reproduce it in these pages."
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