The J. Paul Getty Museum

Landscape with Orpheus

Object Details


Landscape with Orpheus


Unknown maker, Flemish, 16th century




16th century, about 1570


Oil on panel

Object Number:



35.6 × 45.7 cm (14 × 18 in.)

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Object Description

A high horizon line provides a bird's-eye view into a valley filled with moist air, and gradations of tone and atmospheric perspective define distance. Orpheus sits in the left foreground, enchanting not only the wild beasts but even the trees and rocks with the glorious sound of his sublimely beautiful music. The painting smoothly draws the viewer into the delightful landscape, beginning with the figures at lower left, progressing along the road to encounter a steer drawn to the melody's source, then continuing on as the road repeatedly winds into the background.

This artist was not chiefly interested in Orpheus, but he or she needed an excuse for painting a landscape. Artists of the 1500s usually presented their landscapes as settings for myths or Biblical stories. Despite the burgeoning market for pictures featuring landscapes, landscape was not yet considered an independent subject.

- 1971

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, December 8, 1971, lot 87, to the J. Paul Getty Museum, in same lot as companion, Landscape with Mercury and Argus.]
Note: as Cornelis Massys

Landscapes of Myth (November 5, 2002 to February 2, 2003)
  • The Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), November 5, 2002 to February 2, 2003

Sotheby's, London. Important Old Master Paintings. December 8, 1971, p. 60, no. 87, ill.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 42, ill.

Lyons, Claire L. Landscapes of Myth, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), unpaginated, no. 27, fig. 1.