Social History of Art

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16th Italy Villa Lante

Orpheus Tames the Animals, Villa Lante, Bagnaia, 1570s

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Orpheus Tames the Animals, Villa Lante, Bagnaia, 1570s
Classical and Renaissance writers understood music as embedded in the cosmos, not just in the traditional sense of the "music of the spheres" but in Aristotle's sense as music as a metaphor for nature's all pervasive hierarchies of mind over body. The musical power of Orpheus over lower beasts, over savage Hades, and over inanimate matter (rocks) exemplified the innate rule of reason over body as well as the larger social hierarchy which placed the aristocracy at the top. Already princely rule had been explicitly depicted as Orpheus Taming the Beasts in a garden in the 1516 triumphal entry of Charles V into Bruges. As a garden theme, Orpheus Taming the Animals also allegorized the larger taming of nature in the garden itself.
Posted by Robert Baldwin on October 6, 2010 Full Size| Slideshow