Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld

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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861
By LISA MAEDA

Ah, nothing quite like a trip to the underworld. Fiery pits, bone-filled deserts, and the cries of the dead — a truly unforgettable, inescapable place. Or not.

Only the most charming musician can charm Hades, and that musician is Orpheus. He had just married the love of his life, Eurydice. Unfortunately, not even hours after the wedding, she strays from Orpheus and gets bitten by a snake. Virgil's version of the story blames Aristaeus, keeper of the bees, for chasing Eurydice as she denies his affections. Pretty uncool, considering she literally just married another guy. Ovid's telling simply states she went to pick flowers with her bridesmaids. Either way, Eurydice dies tragically, leaving a brokenhearted Orpheus. Unable to cope with the death of his late wife, he decides to ask Hades, "Hey, can I have my wife back?" in song form, and it actually works. There's only one catch: Orpheus must lead Eurydice and cannot look back at her until they have reached the surface.

We watch the reunited couple as they ascend on their trek upwards. The scenery is lush, a harsh contrast to the blazing inferno that we usually associate with the underground. Yet, tension overpowers any semblance of hope.

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