The Love Potion
|The Love Potion|
|Artist||Evelyn De Morgan|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||104.1 cm × 52.1 cm (41.0 in × 20.5 in)|
|Location||De 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, 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 leather bound books on the shelf, which were popular alchemy texts during the late nineteenth century. The subject sits in profile, 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 of her gown.
This repetition of color reinforced the idea that whatever potion she is creating may be for personal gain. A couple is seen 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 a 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 with perfectly round, glowing green eyes. The cat's eyes mirror the green circular glass detail above the sorceress, which gives the illusion of many eyes watching her at work. The cat resembles the cat seen in the foreground of Edouard Manet's painting Olympia, in which the animal is a symbol of prostitution. Although the sorceress in The Love Potion is 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 colours of the setting sun in the background create a mysterious setting, further suggesting something illicit is taking place.
The Love Potion is an 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 displays her style and impeccable attention to detail.
- 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.