Posted 8th September 2019
Evelyn De Morgan, Cadmus and Harmonia, 1877
Curator, De Morgan Foundation
'With lambent tongue he kissed her patient face,
Crept in her bosom as his dwelling place,
Entwined her neck, and shared the loved embrace.'
[extract from Ovid's Metamorphoses - displayed next to the picture when first exhibited]
Evelyn calls on the tales of Ovid's Metamorphoses, depicting the moment in which Harmonia's husband is transformed into a snake. She is mountainous against the rocky backdrop, clearly considered the central cog to this story. Harmonia is depicted as a beautiful young girl with long red locks and pale plump skin, Evelyn having changed this from the elderly woman of the original tale. The snake twines around her, ensnaring her entire body, her contrapposto position (tilted hip) mimicking this serpentine form, foreshadowing her wish to join her husband in fate.
Cadmus and Harmonia was the first of Evelyn's pictures to be exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in London. It was purchased by Sir Charles Dilke, who later suffered from a very public, embarrassing divorce after a scandalous affair with his brother's mother-in-law and her daughter. Dilke was painted by G F Watts and his portrait is on view at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village.
Header Image: Evelyn De Morgan, Cadmus and Harmonia, 1877