Frederick Sandys, Medea, 1866-68, oil on panel, 61 x 46 cm, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Source

Eugène Delacroix, Medea, 1838, oil on canvas, 260 × 165 cm, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille. Source

Evelyn De Morgan, Medea, 1889, oil on canvas, 148 x 88 cm, Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead. Source

This afternoon, my mum and I are going to see Medea - featuring the wonderful Helen ‘Narcissa Malfoy’ McCrory! - at the National Theatre in London. I thought it would be fitting to post a little something about the crazed-protagonist from Euripides’ Greek tragedy, who featured prominently in 19th-century European art. Medea was the wife of the hero Jason - of 'and the Argonauts’ fame - and with him, she had five children. But after hearing that Jason was planning to leave his family, Medea sought vengeance. She poisoned Jason’s new lover Glauce, before murdering two of her own sons, Tisander and Alcimenes, who are both depicted in Delacroix’s painting. I can’t wait to see Ben Power and Carrie Cracknell’s modern take on this tragic tale; McCrory should be fantastic as the revenge-obsessed Medea, too!

Vanité (1885). Alfred Agache (French, 1843-1915). Oil on wood. Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille.

A young woman with a proud, cold look, sits. Objects are at her feet. Dressed simply, she holds a golden sphere which represents the cycle of time, eternal and unchanging. The bamboo to the left may represent Japan where Agache turned definitively to an artistic career. The book, bottom right, could be the one that his friend writer Auguste Angellier dedicated in his honor.

Apelles Painting Campaspe in the Presence of Alexander the Great. Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748-1825). Oil on panel. Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille.

Pliny the Elder wrote that Campaspe was the favorite mistress of Alexander the Great, and that Apelles was his favorite painter. Alexander asked him to paint a full-length portrait of Campaspe nude. In so doing, Apelles fell in love with her. Alexander said to the painter: You may take her, I prefer the painting.