The Love Potion

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The Love Potion
The Love Potion - Evelyn de Morgan.jpg
ArtistEvelyn De Morgan
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions104.1 cm × 52.1 cm (41.0 in × 20.5 in)
LocationDe Morgan Centre, London

The Love Potion is a 1903 painting by Evelyn De Morgan depicting a witch with a black cat familiar at her feet.

According to Elise Lawton Smith,[1] the painting "exhibits a Pre-Raphaelite fascination with medieval subjects and decorative detailing."

The Love Potion pushed the boundaries of society's expectations of women by “exploring the nature of female authority through the practice of sorcery." The painting differs from most of De Morgan's earlier works by featuring a sorceress as the subject, rather than a Christian or mythological figure. The sorceress is dressed in an ornate gold gown, which is symbolic of her mastery of skill and the final stage of the alchemical system of progression toward salvation. Her mastery is further evidenced by the leather bound books on the shelf which were popular alchemy texts during the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, the subject is seated in a position making her profile visible which creates a sense of intensity and authority. Her intent stare is fixated on the potion she is mixing in her chalice, which mirrors the gold and sapphire blue seen on her gown.

This repetition of color reinforced the idea that whatever potion she is cooking up is for personal gains. There is also a couple embracing in the background, directly above the chalice which suggests that the potion may also have to do with them. This idea is further supported by the piece of white cloth draped on the bench behind the sorceress, which looks like it’s the missing piece from the woman’s dress. In the foreground of the work is a black cat which has little definition other than the perfectly round, glowing green eyes. These eyes are mirrored by the green circular glass detail above the subject which gives the illusion of many eyes watching the sorceress at work. The cat also resembles the cat seen in the foreground of Edouard Manet's painting Olympia, in which the cat is a symbol of prostitution. Although the sorceress in De Morgan's work is probably not a prostitute, the purpose of the cat may still work to symbolize similar taboo practices such as alchemy, which was also frowned upon in Edwardian society. The setting sun seen in the background further suggests something illicit is taking place by creating a mysterious setting.

The Love Potion is a textbook example of De Morgan's characteristic use of bold colors and strong female imagery. Although the subject matter differs slightly from the majority of her works, it is a display of her style and her impeccable attention to detail.


  1. ^ Elise Lawton Smith (2002), Evelyn Pickering De Morgan and the Allegorical Body (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press)
  • De Morgan Foundation, "Evelyn De Morgan" under “The De Morgans”
  • Lawton Smith, Elise “The Art of Evelyn De Morgan,” Womens Art Journal 18, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 1997): 3-9.
  • Stirling, A.M.W. William De Morgan and his Wife (New York: Henry Holt, 1922): 144, 386.
  • Haeffner, Mark The Dictionary of Alchemy (Hammersmith: Aquarian, 1991) 69, 89.