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Picturing a World

Clearing the Clutter (6): Angel, goddess, or dangerous lady?

I had labeled this image, saved from a medieval moraized Ovid, as "Teeth in open mouth" because depictions of teeth are rare. What interests me now, however, is the expressions on the faces. At first glance, the wings seem to say "angels." But the lady is clearly up to no good, and the young man seems uneasy despite his crown.

Religious art, in fact, supplied 15th C artists with the visual vocabulary to depict mythic characters. In this case Circe, a daughter of the sun, is being approached by the mortal-turned-sea-god, Glaucus, for a love potion to win the affections of a nymph, Scylla. His bad luck! Circe instead falls in love with him. When he spurns her, she poisons his beloved Scylla's pool. It's all there in the full-page illustration.
Yet we don't have to use these images to tell either Ovid's tale or the medieval version. Isn't it enough to recognize how well the artist conveys psychology and go from there? The lady could be a fairy instead of an angel, a belle dame sans merci. Shed the wings and she suggests a court sophisticate encountering a young may waaaay out of his level of experience. Or do you think you could identify with him and make him heroic? Who is the central character here? I'd say the lady (the guy looks too ineffectual). Yet maybe the central character is offstage, either witnessing the scene or about to be clobbered by its implications. If so, who is it?
The moral of my story is, as always, let a prompt set off your imagination and then run with it. Metamorphosis.

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