Date of Printing: 1892 • Medium: Engraving (B&W) • Subject Category: Mythological • Signed: Plate signed, Lower Left • Period Created: Romantic (1800 - 1899) • Plate Size HxWxD cm: 24 x 16 • Leaf Paper Size HxW cm: 29.2 x 22.8 • Style: Original Vintage • Print on Verso: Blank on verso • Condition: Pristine • Edition Type: 1st Edition - Limited • Paper Type: Woven • Framed: Print only
Very rare engraving by Gustave Moreau. Original Antique Engraving 'Head of Orpheus' 1892, after his own 1865 painting in oil of the same. Gustave Moreau was a major figure in French Symbolist painting whose main emphasis was the illustration of biblical and mythological figures. As a painter, Moreau appealed to the imaginations of some Symbolist writers and artists. He is recognized for his works that are influenced by the Italian Renaissance and exoticism. His art work was preserved in Paris at the Musée Gustave Moreau.
This unique engraving is a bookplate from the First US edition of 'Character Sketches of Romance, Fashion and The Drama', by E Cobham Brewer New York 1892. It depicts a beautiful young Pre-Raphaelite-style woman with the head of the slain Orpheus resting on his Lyre. It is 'after' the original work by Gustave Moreau (1826-98) and engraved by Lalauze (1838-1906).
Based on the story by Milton in his Lycidas it has a letterpress background and a strong plate impression.
Signed in the plate lower left it measures 9" x 12" and comes complete with it's original tissue guard detailing the story of the slaying of Orpheus. According to Greek mythology, he floated down the river Hebrus and landed on the Island of Lesbos..."down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore".
With no creasing or spotting the Antique condition is PRISTINE.
In Greek mythology, Orpheus's skill as a poet and musician was such that he even charmed wild beasts. He had the misfortune of charming the Maenads, who tore him to pieces after the death of Eurydice to punish him for rebuffing their advances.
Gustave Moreau continued the myth, with the vision of a girl dressed in Oriental finery rescuing the poet's head. Is she a wise virgin to efface the memory of the mad Bacchantes?
The poet's head rests on his lyre, and the girl is gazing at him with a melancholy air. The two faces, strangely similar with their closed eyes, seem absorbed in infinite contemplation. The horrible ordeal is followed by a calm scene mysteriously free of morbidity and bathed in a twilight glow, with a fantastic landscape in the background worthy of Leonardo Da Vinci. The diagonal compositions suggests a playing card, in which the musicians in the top left corner are balanced by the turtles, lower right, whose carapace, according to the myth, was used to make the first lyre.
In Orpheus, we sense the emergence of a semi-fantastic world with disturbing atmospheres, impregnated with ambiguous charms. The golden chiaroscuro, complex composition and sensual yet mystic mood that characterised Moreau's mature style about 1870 are already in place here.
For all these reasons, Moreau counts as a decisive figure in the Symbolist movement.