#FridayPainting: John William Waterhouse “Circe”

Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive.”

Madeline Miller, Circe

Circe is the daughter of the Titan sun god Helios, and the nymph, Perse, making her a granddaughter of Atlas and a sister to Aeetes.

In Greek mythology, Circe was a famous enchantress who had many abilities, one of which was her ability to transform people into animals. She lived on the island of Aea in the Black Sea where she transformed Odysseus’s men into swine with her magic potion and kept them as her slaves.

In this painting, John William Waterhouse combined feminine beauty and mystery in a reflective pose. The magic potion on the table reminds viewers that Circe is a dangerous enchantress.

Circe by John William Waterhouse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

13 thoughts on “#FridayPainting: John William Waterhouse “Circe”

  1. This is very interesting, I read it several weeks ago, actually, and returned to read it again today. The comments are excellent, as well. And. as has been commented, several times, the art work is excellent, as well. Mythology is always exciting and those with imagination to create interesting situations are really gifted! Thank you for this post! !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Resa for your insightful comments. Mythologies have been a fascination for me since I was a child. Even then, I knew that they were belief systems followed by the ancients. While I understood that these myths may not be literal, there was something about them that rang true. They represent cultural memories as well as universal concerns that resonate with us in our current relation. We struggle with the same questions of good vs evil, how do we relate to the world around us, birth, death, nature.

      Madeleine L’Engle said it best with these words: “When we lose our myths we lose our place in the universe.”

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    1. Enough to turn men into pigs, it seems, Liz. I think that you would enjoy reading Circe by Madeline Miller. It is a retelling of the ancient myths. She begins with Circe’s origin story and narrates Circe’s encounters with mythological figures such as Hermes, the Minotaur, Jason, and Medea, and ultimately her romance with Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.

      Miller has a fluid, elegant writing style. Here is another quote that I wrote in my “quote book.”

      “I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.” Madeline Miller, Circe

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    1. I agree, Colleen. I have John Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalott” print nearby. I started this blog many years ago to document my exploration of art. I realized how little I knew about this subject matter. Even now, I realize that I have only touched the surface. There are so many stories captured in a work of art. Even more exciting is that art transforms and merges with other art forms. It is magic, pure and simple.

      Liked by 1 person

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