Orpheus tries to hold on to Eurydice, François Gérard
François Gérard
Orpheus tries to hold on to Eurydice
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Related external works


François Beisson nach François Gérard: Orphée tentant de retenir Eurydice / Orpheus versucht Eurydike festzuhalten, ca. 1791, Kupferstich, abgedruckt in: Publius Virgilius Maro, Bucolica, Georgica et Aeneis, hrsg. von Pierre Didot, Paris 1798 (Mambelli 1954.477)

François Gérard

Orpheus tries to hold on to Eurydice, ca. 1791

211 x 155 mm
Physical Description
Black and brown ink as well as watercolour, highlighted with white, on paper
Inventory Number
Object Number
17622 Z
Not on display


About the Work

The tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the great myths of classical antiquity. Vergil described it in the "Georgics", Ovid in the "Metamorphoses", and again and again the material inspired musicians, painters and poets from the Middle Ages to the present to new artistic interpretations. Orpheus − distraught by the violent death of his wife Eurydice − goes into the underworld to convince the god Hades with music to give him back his beloved. His wish is granted under the condition that he does not look for Eurydice when he returns through the underworld. But Orpheus doubts, looks back and thus loses Eurydice forever: "And quickly out of his eyes, as smoke disappears into the air, she vanishes," Virgil wrote. It is precisely this moment that Gérard's dramatically exaggerated composition shows. Orpheus' cloak is thrown into sweeping folds by the sudden movement and exposes the antique naked body, tense in its rotation. Eurydice lies motionless in his arms. Elevations in white colour make her body appear deathly pale. And just as Virgil described it, Gérard surrounds her with clouds of smoke that rise into the darkness of the black-tinted rocks. Gérard has masterfully captured the contrast between living and dead in this drawing.

Work Data

Basic Information

Orpheus tries to hold on to Eurydice
Contractor, employer
Production Place
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Black and brown ink as well as watercolour, highlighted with white, on paper
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Captions Added Later
Verso bezeichnet oben rechts (mit Bleistift): GEORG. LIB. IV / par B[ar]on F. Gérard
Verso auf dem Montierungsbogen Stempel der Sammlung Jean Jadot, Brüssel (Lugt 4009)
  • Nicht geprüft

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
CC BY-SA 4.0 Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions
Illustrated Passage
  • Vergil: Georgica, 4, 453-527
  • Ovid: Metamorphosen, 10. Buch, Orpheus und Eurydike, 1-105


  • 94O2122 when leaving the underworld, Orpheus looks back and loses Eurydice for ever

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