The Wine of Circe, by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898). 1863-69. Watercolour and body colour on paper. 711 x 1016 mm. Reproduction taken from Drinkwater, facing p. 25. Photographed in its frame (below right) by Jacqueline Banerjee at the press view of the exhibition, "Edward Burne-Jones," Tate Britain, 24 October 2018-24 February 2019, reviewed here. This item was on loan to the Tate for the exhibition.

Painting in its frame (the colour seems truer here).

The Wine of Circe is a painting inspired by Homer, in which Circe carefully measures out drops of the potion that will turn Odysseus's men into swine. She is shown with her tamed but still fierce-looking panthers — once men, now symbols of "ruined passion," according to Rossetti, who wrote a poem in response to the work (qtd. in Smith 67). In Greek mythology, Circe is the daughter of the sun-god, Helios. Noting that this painting "sealed his reputation as a painter of rare imagination," Alison Smith explains that the "predominant orange-yellow" here dramatises "the daily ritual performed by the enchantress in chime with the course of the sun (indicated by the wilting sunflowers on the left)" (67). On a different note, the painting is felt to have "contributed to the elaboration of the image of woman as evil and bewitching" (Des Cars 26).

Captions, text and formatting (as well as scan and photograph) by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the scan without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned it and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

Related Material


Des Cars, Laurence. "Edward Burne-Jones and France." Edward Burne-Jones. Victorian Artist-Dreamer, by Stephen Wildman and John Christian, with essays by Alan Crawford and Laurence des Cars. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. 25-39.

Drinkwater, John. The Outline of Literature. Vol. I. London: G. Newnes, 1923. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Dorothy H. Hoover Library, Ontario College of Art and Design. Web. 1 November 2018.

Smith, Alison. "Apprentice to Master, 1856-70." Edward Burne-Jones. Ed. Smith. London: Tate Publishing, 2019. 45-67.

Created 28 October 2018