Friday, 13 February 2015

Down the Hatch!

Valentine's Day is almost upon us, my lovely readers, and may your day be filled with lots of hugs, kisses and chocolate!  If any of these feel decidedly lacking, I'm here to provide a bit of romantic imagery to your day...

Fill in the blank as you will...
(or ring the police)
Now, if you are feeling a little underwhelmed by love this weekend, have you considered a little assistance in the form of a love potion?

The Love Philtre (1914) John William Waterhouse
Waterhouse knew a thing or two about pretty girls and drugs.  He returned again and again to girls and dodgy drinks, including the above image which I wish I could find in colour.  Never mind, here's a corker...

Love Philtre J W Waterhouse
Pretty, pretty, and speaking of which, in terms of Victorian art the ones handing out the love potions are always beautiful women who you would probably not have any problem falling in love with anyway.  All glam and gorgeous, these women are drugging your wine, gentlemen, so beware!

The Love Potion Evelyn de Morgan
With sorceress overtones, exotic and mystical women mixed their potions in order to either ensnare a lucky gentleman of their own or assist other hapless maidens to claim the man of their dreams.  Long before women were advised to keep their thumb over the top of their bottles in Tiger Tiger, men would be well advised to be wary of any beverage handed to them by a lovelorn maiden who looked a bit desperate.  Especially if it came in a pretty cup.  That's a dead giveaway....

The Love Potion (1890) Beatrice Offor
I think if it was one of these mystical women who gave you your drink you would be suspicious.  Add a bit of animal print or a little cat, then really you only have yourself to blame if you eat or drink anything given to you.  It's interesting how leopard print equated to sorceress, as if skinning a leopard was part of sorceress basic training (it's week three, before caldron care).  Nowadays it doesn't seem to be so mysterious - I have a gleefully fake leopard print coat which I was told looked kind of tacky, but suited me.  I'm not sure how to take that.  My favourite compliment I got while wearing it was that I looked like a black-marketeer's mistress.  I'm fine with that.

Love Philtre (1885) Henry Glindoni
For the more Tudor amongst you, you have to go and see a man about the potion.  He looks more official and has books and stuff.  There isn't a hint of leopard print and no cats.  It's sort of disappointing and takes all the excitement out of it.  It's supposed to be about love and desire, for heaven's sake, you wouldn't want to go to Boots for something to do with love and desire.  Oh, hang on. Sigh. Well, that kicks the excitement out of it.  Where's my romance?

Tristram and Isolde (or Tristan and Iseult)  J W Waterhouse
Thank you Waterhouse, I knew I could rely on you.  For the flimsiest excuse for falling in love with the wrong person ever, you have to turn to gorgeous Tristram and the equally lovely Isolde.  When King Mark sent the hot knight to fetch his bride how did he not see it coming?  I learned that lesson at about 8 when I let one of my pretty friends tell a boy I liked him and she ended up holding his hand in the playground. So Tristram and Isolde are merrily sailing back to her husband when she accidentally drinks the love potion from the picnic basket....

Tristram and Isolde Herbert Draper
If any of you are familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer then a similar thing happens to all the yokels of the village where they drink the dodgy tea and all fall in love with deeply in appropriate people.  While singing.  Well in the legend of Tris and Issie, she has some fizzy tea and the first person she sets eyes on is the hot knight.  How very convenient.

Tristram and Isolde John Duncan
The whole matter would be far less pretty if she had laid eyes on some bloke covered in barnacles who smelt like kippers.  Luckily for the art-loving public, she fell in love with Tristram, but going by Duncan's image, she knocked back the potion while staring at him so that really isn't 'by chance' is it?  The upshot is not pretty which I suppose should be a warning toi us all.  Don't be meddling with magical potions to woo your beloved.  The £10 meal deal from M&S might have a fairly similar effect.

Especially if you add a walnut whip.

Good luck!


  1. Would you like to sin
    With Elinor Glynn
    On a tiger skin?
    Or would you prefer
    To err with her
    Upon some other fur?

  2. Quite so. No drinking any odd drinks this weekend Simon, especially if served to you by a dodgy woman in a fake fur coat....

  3. I wonder if Waterhouse did have a thing about poison. One of the things that has always struckabout Waterhouse is how little we know about him cf Rossetti and all the others. I don't think we know even the names of any of his beautiful models either. It is strange...

  4. I'm still giggling from you being likened to a black-marketeers mistress. Loving the blog, and missing art galleries at the mo.

  5. These women are all being quite devious and underhanded. The police would want to have words with them if they were doing that in this day and age.

    It's interesting how poisons and potions often seemed a woman's domain by this point in art - and even in Tudor times, even if they get the potion or poison from a man, it's usually a woman doing the getting. Murder by poison is often seen as a "woman's weapon", but cowardly in men. Also note that these women are rarely seen to be brewing up consensual aphrodisiacs; they're basically trying to drug some guy into being with them. The knowledge of potions and suchlike never seems to be used for good. I rarely see them cooking up a healing potion either - despite herbal remedies being actually quite frequently used before modern medicine!

    I think the word "glamour" is a good one for here - it implies a beauty that's artifice and a disguise. Being beautiful on the outside helps them get away with being ugly on the inside, but it's probably being ugly on the inside that means they're resorting to love potions because nobody wants to be with a snake once they get past how attractive that person might initially appear. Charm and glamour aren't impervious disguises.

    If Isolde is quite deliberately choosing to drink the love potion, I wonder how that works morally; she's deliberately passing up her ability to not fall in love with him. Does he have to turn her way, or would she have been besotted with him anyway to drink the potion, and thus the potion has no effect?... I'm sure someone could write an interesting story exploring that variation.

    In the end, what good is having someone that only loves you because of a potion you gave them? Beyond the fact that it would be some kind of emotional equivalent of putting roofies in someone's drink, even if they didn't know it you would know that this guy who is acting all besotted with you is actually only under the influence of some potion/spell and therefore, underneath it, doesn't really love you at all, and would probably hate you if they knew what you'd done. That would be a hollow victory and pretty corrosive and probably counterproductive to the potion-dispenser's aims. Plus, what if you've used a potion on someone and now they're utterly obsessed with you, but you've given the potion to a bad choice and you've got yourself a stalker (karma aside)?

    Love potions are a bad idea. Most people involved with modern Witchcraft also know that spells used to try and get someone to fall in love with you are a really bad idea too. Say no to love magic! (Unless it's of the generalised "help me find someone that is suitable" sort).

  6. Excellent points, Lovely Housecat! It all went horribly wrong in The Sorcerer and I ended up on the knee of a man who couldn't hold a top note. May that be a lesson to us all.

    Say no to drugs!


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx