Portrait of Deianira by Evelyn De Morgan

Portrait of Deianira by Evelyn De Morgan

Deianira is a painting by Evelyn De Morgan, a British Pre-Raphaelite painter who lived from 1855 to 1919. The painting depicts Deianira, the wife of the hero Heracles (Hercules), holding a poisoned robe that she believed would restore her husband’s love for her.

In Greek mythology, Deianira unwittingly causes Heracles’ death by giving him the poisoned robe, leading to her own suicide in guilt and despair.

De Morgan’s painting, completed in 1890, shows Deianira dressed in a flowing white gown, holding the robe and looking pensive. The painting is part of the collection of the De Morgan Foundation, which was established to preserve and promote the works of Evelyn De Morgan and her husband, the ceramicist William De Morgan.

Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) was an English painter who is best known for her works featuring mythological and allegorical themes. She was born in London and received training in art from her uncle, the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Roddam Spencer Stanhope.

De Morgan’s paintings often feature strong and powerful women, and she frequently depicted mythological figures such as Ariadne, Helen of Troy, Cassandra, and Medea. She was also a suffragist and her beliefs in women’s rights and social justice are reflected in her art.

Examples of De Morgan’s famous paintings include:

  • Cadmus and Harmonia (1877): The painting depicts the mythological figures of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and his wife Harmonia, the goddess of harmony and concord. In the painting, Cadmus and Harmonia are shown in a moment of tender intimacy, with Harmonia placing a wreath of flowers on her husband’s head. The painting is known for its detailed and intricate rendering, as well as its vivid use of color and symbolism.
  • Night and Sleep (1878): The painting depicts Nyx, the Greek goddess of night, accompanied by her son Hypnos, the god of sleep. In the painting, Nyx is depicted with wings and wearing a veil, while Hypnos is shown as a young boy holding poppies, which were believed to have sleep-inducing properties in ancient Greece. The painting is known for its vivid colors and intricate details, which are typical of De Morgan’s work.
  • Flora (1894): It depicts the Roman goddess Flora, who was associated with springtime and flowers, standing in a garden surrounded by a variety of blossoming plants. The painting is notable for its vibrant colors and attention to detail, as well as its celebration of nature and feminine beauty.
  • Eos (1895): The painting depicts the Greek goddess Eos, who is known as the goddess of dawn in Greek mythology. In the painting, Eos is shown riding a chariot that is pulled by four white horses, symbolizing the arrival of a new day. The painting features De Morgan’s signature style of using vibrant colors and intricate details, creating a dreamlike atmosphere that captures the essence of the mythical figure.
  • Helen of Troy (1898): It depicts the mythical figure of Helen of Troy, who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world and the cause of the Trojan War. In the painting, Helen is depicted with long golden hair, wearing a white gown and a golden shawl, while holding a torch symbolizing the war that would soon ensue because of her beauty. The painting is known for its romantic and dream-like quality, with soft colors and a peaceful landscape in the background, creating a stark contrast with the violent conflict that would soon take place.

In addition to her paintings, De Morgan was a skilled designer and created numerous works in the Arts and Crafts style, including tapestries, ceramics, and furniture. She was a member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and exhibited her work in many of their shows.

De Morgan’s paintings and designs were not always well received by the art establishment during her lifetime, but today she is recognized as a significant artist of the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.