Orpheus was a legendary singer, musician and poet. Orpheus could sing so sweetly that wild beasts would follow him about; trees and plants would bow him and the wildest of men would become gentle. Orpheus is the hero of several myths, thus he took part in the expedition of the Argonauts.
The most famous myth about Orpheus is about his descent into the Underworld to bring back his wife Eurydice. Eurydice was a Nymph, one day she stepped on a snake, which bit her, and the Nymph died. Orpheus, who was inconsolable, went down to the Underworld to find his wife. With his music he charmed first the monsters of Hades, then the Underworld gods. Hades and Persephone agreed to return Eurydice to the world of light, but they set a condition: Orpheus was to go alone, his wife would follow him, but he was not to look back at her until they left the Underworld. Orpheus accepted and set out. He had almost reached daylight when a terrible doubt seized him. He turned around to check. Eurydice fainted and died again. Orpheus was not admitted to the Underworld for the second time.
In his grief Orpheus was wandering around the world, singing sad songs. In a forest he met joyous bacchanals, who first tried to lure him, to make him merry, but when failed, outraged, tore him to pieces.
See: Jan Brueghel the Elder. Orpheus in the Underworld.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld.
Frederick Leighton. Orpheus and Eurydice.
Nicolas Poussin Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice.
Henryk Siemiradzki. Orpheus in the Underworld.