Molti Ritratti: Circe

As an artist, what's not to like about the subject of Circe, a beautiful enchantress whose hobby is turning men into animals (some women might object to the "turning" part). Adding more dramatic spice, the Homeric character Ulysses and his crew arrive at Circe's place during the course of the Odyssey and he and Circe square off. For a more detailed, scholarly account of Circe, click here.)

Depictions of Circe, with or without Ulysses, began centuries ago and continue up to the present age of digital illustration. The selection below is centered in Victorian times but includes several outliers.


By Francesco Maffei - c.1650

By George Romney - "Lady Hamilton as Circe" - c.1782
Emma Hamilton while living in Naples entranced Lord Nelson when his squadron patrolled the Mediterranean. The painter Romney had also fallen under her spell and this painting of her as Circe is one of many he made of her.

By Wright Barker - 1889

By Gustave Adolphe Mossai - 1904

By Franz von Stuck - "Tilla Durieux as Circe" - 1913

By George Grosz - 1927
Grosz is perhaps best known for his crudely done politically-themed works. This one is unusual because he introduced a classical theme to the normally contemporary setting of his objects of scorn.

Now for my current favorites...

By Charles Hermans - 1881
A contemporary (for the artist) Circe setting with the Ulysses stand-in getting the worse of it.

By J.W. Waterhouse "Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses" - 1892

By J.W. Waterhouse - "Circe Invidiosa"
Waterhouse painted at least one more Circe, but it lacks the drama of these fine images that I consider among his best.