Maenads in a Wood

19th century
Gustave Doré (French, 1832–1883)

Object Place: Europe, France


Overall Height: 47 1/4 in. (120 cm); Width: 77 3/16 in. (196.1 cm); Depth: 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Thomas Jefferson Coolidge III Gallery (Gallery 248)





Large scale plaster sculpture depicting in high relief the death of Orpheus. Placed against a wooded setting, a dozen nymphs in a triangular configuration dance in revelry before a depression. Most of the voluptuous, twisting figures are presented nude, although some are partially covered with drapery and foliage. The central figure holds a tambourine above her head and three others clutch tree branches.

Gustave Dore, known primarily for his book illustrations, prints, and paintings, turned to sculpture late in his career. It was only in 1871 that he began to learn to model, and he exhibited his first sculpture at the Salon of 1877.
This plaster relief is the second version of a sculpture inspired by his 1879 painting of the Death of Orpheus. Dore used the same background and composition in both reliefs; however, here the dead Orpheus is absent and the female woodland figures are not armed. He has depicted a bacchic dance of the Maenads, followers of Dionysus, god of the Orphic religion, who in a delerious frenzy killed Orpheus. This relief may have been intended to serve as an architectural decoration.


Signed: Gve Dore


Collection of Dr. Bibring, Le Mesnil le-Roi, France. By 1994, Samuel Clapp, Fiduciary Trust Company Limited, Bahamas; 1994, sold by Clapp to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 22, 1994)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Gardner in honor of Perry Townsend Rathbone and European Decorative Arts and Scultpure Curator's Fund