Orpheus and Eurydice by Niccolò dell’Abbate

Niccolò is best known for his mythological landscape subjects. Apollo, a Greek god, gave his son Orpheus a lyre (harp) and taught him how to play. Orpheus played with such perfection that even Apollo was surprised. It is said that nothing could resist his music and melody, neither enemies nor beasts. Even trees and rocks were entranced with his music.

Orpheus fell in love with Eurydice, a woman of unique beauty and grace, whom he married and lived happily with for a short time. However, when Hymen was called to bless the marriage, he predicted that their perfection was not meant to last.

Artist: Niccolò dell’Abbate
Title: Orpheus and Eurydice
Date first half of 16th century
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Height: 188 cm (74 in). Width: 237 cm (93.3 in).
Current location: National Gallery

Niccolò dell’Abbate
1512 – 1571

Niccolò dell’Abbate, was an Italian Mannerist painter in fresco and oils He was of the Emilian school, and was part of the team of artists called the School of Fontainebleau that introduced the Italianate Renaissance to France.

He trained together with Alberto Fontana in the studio of Antonio Begarelli, a local Modenese sculptor; early influences included Ferrarese painters such as Garofalo and Dosso Dossi He specialized in long friezes with secular and mythological subjects, including for the Palazzo dei Beccherie (1537); in various rooms of the Rocca di Scandiano owned by the counts Boiardo he created 12 frescoes, one for each book of The Aenid, and notably a courtly ceiling Concert composed of a ring of young musicians seen in perspective, Sotto in Su (early 1540s), and the Hercules Room in the Rocca Meli Lupi at Soragna (c 1540–43), and possibly the loggia frescoes removed from Palazzo Casotti at Reggio Emilia

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His style was modified by exposure to Correggio and Parmigianino, when he moved to Bologna in 1547 In Bologna, most of his painting depicted elaborate landscapes and aristocratic genre scenes of hunting and courtly loves, often paralleled in mythologic narratives It was during this time that he decorated the Palazzo Poggi, and executed a cycle of frescoes illustrating Orlando Furioso in the ducal palace at Sassuolo, near Modena Bologna is also the location of his illustrations for Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and where he was celebrated in a sonnet which compares him to Raphael and Titian among others One of his early pieces that cemented his reputation was the Martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, in the church of the abbey of San Pietro, Modena

Niccolò is best known for his mythological landscape subjects, which introduced the Flemish world landscape into French art, such as the Orpheus and Landscape with the Death of Eurydice in the National Gallery, London and the Rape of Prosperine in the Louvre, and for his profuse and elegant drawings Not many of his frescoes have survived; however the Louvre does have a collection of his drawings Many of his canvasses were burnt in 1643, by the Austrian regent, Anne Some of his landscapes for Charles IX were influential for the 17th century painters Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin