There are a number of different Chinese export porcelain designs from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) that depict Orpheus with his lyre. The occur in Famille Rose as well as En Grisaille. The scene has sometimes been said to be of the God Apollo who also holds a lyre, however it depicts Orpheus contemplating the death of Eurydice. The most famous story about Orpheus is that of the death of his wife Eurydice (sometimes referred to as Euridice and also known as Agriope). While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and she suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music. As an archetype of the inspired singer, Orpheus is one of the most significant figures in the reception of classical mythology in Western culture, portrayed or alluded to in countless forms of art and popular culture including poetry, opera, and painting.For the Greeks, Orpheus was a founder and prophet of the so-called “Orphic” mysteries. He was credited with the composition of the Orphic Hymns, a collection of which survives. Shrines containing purported relics of Orpheus were regarded as oracles. The information about Orpheus has been taken from Wikipedia.
No damage but the gilding to the finial shows some signs of wear.
Length : 19 cm (7 1/2 inches)
For a very similar Chinese export porcelain teapot where the author is unsure if the figure depicted is Apollo or Orpheus see : Chinese Export Porcelain in the Reeves Center Collection at Washington and Lee University (Thomas V. Litzenburg Jr. Third Millennium Publishing London 2003. ISBN 1-903942-19-5) page 192, plate 191. For a similar image of Orpheus see : La Porcelaine Des Compagnies Des Indes A Decor Occidental (Francois et Nicole Hervouet, Yves Bruneau. Flammarion, 1986. ISBN 2-08-010990-1) page 296, plate 13.20. A further Chinese Export Porcelain teapot of this design is shown in : Fine Chinese Export Porcelain, Paintings and Works of Art, Sotheby`s New York, January 18th 1996, lot 301.
Stock number: 23091.