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Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld

Today I saw my favorite painting again.

Every few years I have the chance to see it again, and each time I see it my impression is different.

The first time I saw this painting was in a museum brochure. Riding home in the bus from a school trip, I read descriptions of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts' permanent collection and studied the paintings. I fell in love with this one.

A couple of years later, I saw the painting in person. I was thrilled beyond measure. It was much larger and more vividly colored than I had imagined.

Years later I saw it again.

Today was my third time, I think, to see this painting. Since my last viewing I have seen a great many paintings by Corot and his contemporaries and have become familiar with the Romantic movement with which his art was involved. In fact there is a companion piece to this one in the Kimball Art Museum that I can visit as much as I like.

This time I was struck simultanenously by a diminuitiveness in the painting as compared to my memories, and also by the poignancy of the subject matter. In previous years, I felt overwhelmed by the largeness of the canvas and the vagueness of the subject, but today I received a distinct impression of the central figure.

She was for me an Ophelia being led by the hand by a vibrant man teaching her how to leave, pulling her from the depths of her underworld toward life. Dependent upon another for her rescue, she follows him listlessly, only he will fail to liberate her from the underworld, still a half-alive thing in contrast to his lively nature.

When I first saw this painting, I was a child, and my personality was not developed, but I can clearly see that I was drawn to it from the depths of my nature that had not yet expressed themselves.

As dark as it may seem, I affirm this subject's similarity with myself. It is played out darkly in my life, but it can also be charming. After our visit to the museum, there was awe and attraction in my gaze as I watched my husband consume an enormous blueberry tart after his ham and potato raclette, while I complacently sipped coffee after sipping a bowl of soup. I enjoy watching life as much as, maybe more than, participating.

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