In ancient Greek mythology, Euterpe was the Muse of flutes or flute-playing. However, in the painting Euterpe by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, the artist has identified this Muse with the more general topic of music (this explains the full title of the work, which is Euterpe or The Muse of Music).
Details, such as the beautifully stylized musical instrument - known as a lyre - confirm the painting's connection with music, while the serene forest background serves as an idealized, timeless setting. This setting, with its suggestion of a Golden Age set in the distant past, is pure Puvis.
The figure of Euterpe is also typical of Puvis de Chavannes's style. She is pale and almost ethereal, like so many of the artist's other depictions of mythical spirits. While the Muse is mostly nude, wearing only a diagonal wisp of a drapery, this only reinforces the work's identification with Classical art. Euterpe demonstrates how adeptly artist Puvis de Chavannes could capture and depict a suggestive image of timeless beauty.
More information about the role that the Muses played in Greek myth can be found at Mythography.
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Author Aimee Brown Price has written a compelling and comprehensive monograph about one of France's most celebrated 19th century painters - Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. The elegant book features color images and engaging text that reveals the mysteries of this master artist.
Robert Goldwater's book introduces us to the some of the artists and concepts involved with the complicated but fascinating art movement known as Symbolism.