Circe offering the Cup to Ulysses

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John William Waterhouse

1849-1917

English , Victorian Romanticist painter and draftsman

Circe offering the Cup to Ulysses

1891

149 x 92 cms | 58 1/2 x 36 ins
Oil on canvas

Oldham Art Gallery

Oldham | United Kingdom

Waterhouse was inspired by Homer's Odyssey to paint several other masterpieces, one of which is Circe" Offering the Cup to Ulysses. Circe" was a beautiful sorceress who turned mortals into animals by giving them a wine filled with an evil potion. Circe" used such a potion on Ulysses' crew turning them into pigs while Ulysses AKA (Odysseus) was taking care of another matter. Ulysses learned of this and was able to attain a medicine from Hermes to prevent Circe"'s potions from having an effect on him. He went to Circe", who had him drink the potion to turn him into a pig as well, when it did not work Ulysses drew his sword and threatened Circe" who, in disbelief, begged him to forgive her.
        Waterhouse portrays Circe", cup in one hand, wand in the other, surrounded by purple flowers, the color of royalty, offering the potion to Ulysses. She thinks herself a queen. She sits on a golden throne, roaring lions depicted on each arm. By her side lies a pig, perhaps one of Ulysses' men. There are other animals portrayed in the painting depicting other mortals who fell into Circe"'s grasp, including a toad in the foreground and a duck which can be seen reflected in the left side of the mirror behind her. Also in the mirror, Ulysses himself can be seen fists clenched, ready to attack.

-- Kara Ross

Further references:
  • An electronic text (etext) version of Homer's The Odyssey.