(b. 1503, Firenze, d. 1572, Firenze)

Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus

Oil on panel, 94 x 76 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia

In this painting Orpheus's features resemble those of the young Duke Cosimo as depicted by Bronzino in official portraits a few years later. The nude Orpheus, poet and musician of Greek mythology, is shown resting the bow of his viol after having calmed Cerberus, the three-headed hound of the underworld. The source of his body is the ancient marble fragment, now in the Vatican, known as the Torso Belvedere.

It is assumed, although not documented, that the painting was made for the ceremonies surrounding the July 1539 wedding of Cosimo to Eleonora di Toledo, the daughter of Charles V's viceroy in Naples.

You can view some depictions of Orpheus taming the animals.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 7 minutes):
Cristoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo, Act I, Orpheus' aria in G Major