Oil on canvas, unframed, 167.5cm by 117cm.
This was one of three paintings purchased by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700), depicting aspects of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (see also PICs 219 and 393).
Orpheus attempted to rescue his dead wife Eurydice from Pluto, the god of the Underworld, through the exquisite beauty of his music, which nothing and no one could resist.
His wish was granted, but he defied Pluto’s orders not to look back at Eurydice as she emerged from the depths, and so, as warned, she was lost to him forever.
The 1738 Burghley Inventory records: ‘The Marble Saloon. Over the Chimney Eurydice in Flames, Cerberus guarding her, 6 Feet long, 3 Feet 9 Inches broad.’
Gennari, who was born to a family of artists, studied in the workshop of the great Bolognese Baroque master Guercino (1591-1666).
His style was always close to that of his master and when Guercino died, Gennari inherited his studio.
In 1672, he travelled to France where he worked at the court of Louis XIV and for members of the French aristocracy.
Two years later, he was in London, where he became court painter to both Charles II and James II, painting allegorical and mythological scenes and portraits.
He also received commissions from their wives, Catherine of Braganza and Mary of Modena.