|Circe (1891) John William Waterhouse|
It is perhaps unsurprising that the Victorians and Edwardians used the image of Circe in their art. The figure of a beautiful witch is a loaded image, at once both dangerous, alluring, attractive and repellent. Could you resist her? What would be the consequences, and would they be worth it? Look at Waterhouse's vision of her above: her astonishing beauty is barely covered by the mist of blue fabric as she raises her wand, but look at her feet. There huddles a little dark pig, snoozing peacefully. When Odysseus' men went to her mansion for a feast, she turned them into swine. Only Odysseus, protected by the holy herb moly managed to resist her potion.
|Circe (1911-14) John William Waterhouse|
|Circe Resplendens (1913) Margaret Murray-Cookesely|
|Circe Invidiosa (1892) J W Waterhouse|
|Circe and Scylla (1886) John Melhuish Strudwick|
|The Wine of Circe (1863-69) Edward Burne-Jones|
|Circe John Collier|
|Circe (1889) Wright Barker|
|Circe (1860) Charles Gumery|
|Circe Edgar Bertram MacKennal|
I'm getting quite a passion for sculpture, although it is hard to talk about it using only two dimensional images. Possibly one of these days I will make a little film about one of the wonderful sculptures I have seen of late, and walk around it with you so we can appreciate all angles. Circe is definitely a woman who has a lot of appreciable angles. In Gumery's sculpture, she stands proud with wand and accoutrements of magic casually strewn around her. MacKennal's sorceress is a far more formidable creature in shining night-black, her arms outstretched in a mock-embrace of deadly magic. I find the appeal/repel of Circe works especially well in MacKennal's vision as you feel compelled to touch that slick, shiny surface, the tactile, smooth curves inviting you in, yet her power, actively imagined in her gesture, should be enough to drive you away.
|Circe (1904) Gustave Mossa|
In Mossa's work, I feel that Circe is almost in contemporary dress, her hair piled up in Edwardian style. There is a modern hint to the tale, but one artist went further...
|Circe the Temptress (1881) Charles Hermans|
The Temptress that faces us expects to be disappointed in us. No matter how beautiful she is, we fear her because deep down we know she is right.