ORPHEUS
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VASSALLO, ANTONIO MARIA

ORPHEUS

Mid-XVII century

canvas, oil

75 х 110 cm

Inv.: 2672

There is a signature at the bottom of the canvas on a stone fragment, which reads: "Anto Ma Vassl/P".

Orpheus - the legendary Thracian poet who invented the writing of verse and music – was renowned for his skilful playing of the lyre. The sounds of his playing tamed wild animals, caused plants to lower their branches and stones to move. Pride of place in the Moscow canvas has been devoted to a depiction of animals and fauns amidst luxuriant forest vegetation, while the figure of Orpheus himself can hardly be discerned in the depths of the picture. The skilful execution of this work and the expressive use of warm colour make it possible to regard the Moscow canvas as a typical example of the school of the so-called neo-Venetians (neoveneziani) which emerged in the painting of Genoa and Rome in the mid-17th century.

Provenance: in 1736 part of the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, First Earl of Orford (1676-1745) in his London residence in Downing Street; in 1739 the painting was seen there by Vertu; later it was moved to Houghton Hall , an estate in the North of England; in 1799 it was acquired from George Walpole, the 3rd Earl of Orford, by Empress Catherine II for the Hermitage; in the Pushkin Museum since 1930

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