Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 56 x 76 cm
Signed: Signed, inscribed and dated centre right: A Frey / Moock 10
Private Collection, Germany
Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry, was one of the nine muses, the children of Mnemosyne, the Goddess of memory, by Zeus, and through her mother the granddaughter of Uranus, the God of the sky and Gaia, the earth deity. The arts personified by these muses (which, however, excluded the visual arts of painting and sculpture), were given primacy in Greek culture by their roots in the very creation of the world. The interest in figures from mythology that inspired later 19th century artists was different to their appearance in earlier academic art, however, when representing these stories accurately was a sign of learning. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting of Mnemosyne, holding the lamp of memory, for example, would not have been immediately obvious to his audience, but for Rossetti capturing the particular beauty of his own muses, Alexa Wilding, Elizabeth Siddall and Elisabeth Cornforth, was more important than precise representation of the subject.
Images of Euterpe exist in antique sculpture and a fresco in Pompeii; in more recent times she appears singly or with other deities in paintings and prints from the later sixteenth century to late eighteenth and early nineteenth century neo-classicism. In early works she usually holds a single pipe, although in a mosaic from a Roman villa at Vichten (Luxembourg) now in the National Museum, she holds two long pipes. In the latter half of the nineteenth century she appears more rarely, but a well-known painting by Arnold Böcklin may have been known to Frey-Mook even though his muse is represented very differently. Both artists, however, have identified her by her double pipes, often mis-identified as a flute but actually an Auloi, an early reed pipe that later evolved into the clarinet. The Auloi, unlike the clarinet, is an idioglot with the reed attached to the pipe itself, rather than to the mouthpiece, and makes a sound resembling the bag pipe, but softer.
Frey-Mook’s Euterpe is bust length, staring at the viewer, holding her pipes high so they are visible; the scene is set at dusk, casting a grey-green light over the whole composition. Should we be in any doubt about the identification of the subject, the artist has inscribed the word EVTERPE above the signature and date, 1910.