Orpheus Fountain


Carl Milles
Cast 1937, Bronze

In Greek mythology, Orpheus was a musician and poet who could calm wild beasts and coax rocks and trees to dance with the beauty of his songs. His wife, Eurydice, was killed by the bite of a serpent. Orpheus, stricken with grief, descended into Underworld in search of her, where his music charmed Hades, the lord of Underworld. The circle of eight figures in the Cranbrook version of the fountain could represent shades (or souls) from the Underworld, or as Milles himself has been quoted as saying, simply “people listening to music.” The only identifiable figure in the group is that of Beethoven, who, in his deafness, raises his arms in a gesture of despair because he cannot hear Orpheus’s music. The original Orpheus Fountain in Stockholm, Sweden, has a 38-foot figure of Orpheus in the center, which is omitted from the Cranbrook version.