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Medea-Frederick Sandys

Aug - 29 - 2013

MedeaMedea is an oil painting on canvas by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederick Sandys which was created in 1868.
In Greek mythology Medea, a magician and princess, fell in love with Jason and helped him steal the Golden Fleece on the island of Colchis. He married her but after the birth of their children he divorced her to marry Glauce. In revenge Medea created a poisoned robe and coronet and sent it to her rival. The robe burst into flames when Glauce put it on, killing her, her father, and everyone else in the palace except Jason. Medea then murdered two of their children in front of him.In this painting Medea is casting the spell which will curse the robe. Whilst Medea claws distractedly at her coral necklace, the boat of her husband Jason is shown sailing away. The influence of Japanese screens upon the artist is demonstrated in the gold background and numerous Oriental motifs, notably the cranes and the dragon. The pair of copulating frogs on the marble table in the foreground symbolise her lover’s infidelity. The Egyptian cat god and dried sting ray signify her use of dark magic.
Half-length seated figure of Medea. Her head is tilted slightly to her right and she faces the spectator. She claws at her red necklace whilst pouring liquid from a beaker into a lit burner. Her long hair is loose. She wears a headband, long earrings and a white dress. On the left in the foreground is a pair of copulating toads and a small Egyptian sculpture. On the right is a abalone shell. She sits in front of a gold background decorated with a ship on the left, flying cranes and the golden fleece hanging in a grove of trees. Below the gilt decoration is a dragon, his legs on the left and his head on the right.
This painting caused much heated debate in The Times when it was rejected from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1868, despite it being hailed as a masterpiece by many critics. Greek legend describes Medea as a sorceress and the wife of Jason. When he deserted her for another woman, Medea poisoned both her rival (Glauce ) and her two children.
The painting was submitted to the Royal Academy of Arts for display in the Summer Exhibition of 1868 but it was rejected – most likely for political rather than artistic reasons.The picture was accepted the following year and reviewed very favourably by The Times, which commented pointedly on its previous failure to win a place.
In 1911 the picture was among paintings representative of the best British art sent to Italy for the international exhibition at Rome held in honour of the jubilee of the Kingdom of Italy.

  • Artist: Frederick Sandys
  • Year: 1868
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 61.2 cm × 45.6 cm (24.1 in × 18.0 in)
  • Location: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham

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