Brawlin' Broads: The Death of Orpheus

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Émile Bin, The Death of Orpheus, 1874
Brawlin' Broads
By BLAIR HUXMAN

In his 1874 work, The Death of Orpheus, Bin focuses on Orpheus, an iconic member of Greek mythology. Bin primarily worked in France and Reims as a decorative artist for hotels, but also gained acclaim through his portrayal of mythological scenes. Here he shows the brutal murder of Orpheus by jealous women. Orpheus is most famous for his tragic love of Eurydice. Many people know the story of his wife dying and getting to come back - if only he does not look back when they escape the underworld. He looks back and she vanishes forever. 

After this event, Orpheus swore off woman and instead chose to cope with his grief through music. Known as the "first pederast," he strictly took on male lovers, which created fervid jealousy among women. Finially, a group of women from Thrace attacks and murders the grieving man. They tore his limbs apart and threw them in a river. His head sang as it floated down the river. The emotional scene depicting in this painting shows a range of feeling. From passion, lust, and fear, Bin dramatizes each on the characters' faces. He heavily stylizes the event to induce drama, intensity, and emotion. The women violently attack, looking determined and a little giddy. One woman aggressively holds Orpheus's head back as she prepares to decapitate him with a sickle while Orpheus looks to the heavens helplessly. Bin's rendition of the vengeful murder uses fluid movement, bright colors, and defined human forms to bring the painting to life as he captures the dramatic moment directly before the murder.

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