Bronze statue depicting the figure of a boy, Orpheus. The figure is stretching, standing on tiptoe with the left leg placed slightly behind the right. The left arm is held almost straight above the figure's head, slightly bent to the left and holding the top of a lyre. The right arm is held upwards across the body, the hand resting in front of the strings of the lyre. The base of the instrument rests against the left of Orpheus' chest near the shoulder. The head and gaze are positioned to look down to the right where a dog like creature, possibly cerberus, is sculpted as part of the base. The bronze base is naturalistically textured with two dog like creatures one to the left and the other to the right of the figure. Both are depicted on their haunches, leaning up against the base looking towards Orpheus with their front legs gripping the base. The dog to the left has its ears pressed back, mouth open and teeth bared. The dog on the right has its mouth closed and looks straight at Orpheus.
Orpheus about 1906 John Macallan Swan 1847-1910 Cast bronze Swan returned repeatedly to the subject of Orpheus, who in Greek myth was such a talented musician that wild animals would follow him, charmed and soothed by his lyre. The combination of big cats and small boy is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, first published in 1894. Swan spent much time at London Zoo observing and taking photographs of big cats. He also studied their anatomy through dissection. Now almost forgotten, Swan was once regarded as a distinguished animal artist. The model for the boy was A. Paget, who posed over 5 years for Orpheus. He remembered Swan as ‘the most wonderful and kindest of all the sculptors’. Purchased 1913.11
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery