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.Acclaimed by the poet Swinburne as Sandy's masterpiece, this painting was accepted for the Royal Academy exhibition of 1868 but with held from view as it was considered an affront to public taste. After protests and arguments in the press, the picture was exhibited the following year, possibly due to Frederick Leighton's intervention on the hanging committee.

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.

  • Presented by the Trustees of the Public Picture Gallery Fund, 1925.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Frederick Sandys -


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
99 Royal Academy of Arts 1869 - 1869
Exposition Universalle
- Louvre 1878 - 1878
Fair Women
123 New Grafton Gallery 1894 - 1894
International Fine Arts Exhibition
87 Rome 1911 - 1911
1860 Exhibition
71 National Gallery British Art (now Tate Britain, London) 1923 - 1923
British Royal Family Exhibition
109 Seibu Department Store, Tokyo 1967-10-06 - 1967-10-18
Frederick Sandys 1829-1904
72 Brighton Museum & Art Gallery 1974-05-07 - 1974-07-14
72 Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield 1974-01-01 - 1974-01-01
Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue
80 Barbican Art Gallery, London 1991-10-17 - 1992-01-12
80 Setagaya Art Museum 1992-02-08 - 1992-03-22
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection, England
88 Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington 1995-03-09 - 1995-05-07
88 Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio 1995-05-27 - 1995-07-16
88 Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington 1995-08-11 - 1995-10-15
88 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas 1995-11-04 - 1996-01-02
88 High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia 1996-01-23 - 1996-04-10
88 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 1996-05-25 - 1996-09-29
The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism and British Art 1860-1910
47 Tate Gallery, London 1997-10-16 - 1998-01-04
47 Haus Der Kunst, Munich 1998-01-00 - 1998-04-00
47 Van Gogh Museum 1998-05-00 - 1998-07-00
The Blue Bower: Rossetti in the 1860s
20 Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham 2000-10-27 - 2001-01-14
Femmes Fatales
- Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands 2003-01-18 - 2003-05-04
- Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen 2003-05-17 - 2003-08-17
Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites
97 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 2005-10-01 - 2006-01-15
97 Museum Villa Stuck, Munich 2006-03-09 - 2006-06-18
97 Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art 2006-09-11 - 2006-11-26
- Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery 2008-01-19 - 2008-04-06
- Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2008-04-19 - 2008-07-13
- National Gallery, London 2008-07-24 - 2008-10-05
The Pre-Raphaelites
146 Nationalmuseum, Stockholm 2009-02-26 - 2009-05-24


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
Notes on some Pictures of 1868
A C Swinburne 1888 - p.371-2
The Artist: Being a Consideration of the Art Frederick Sandys
Esther Wood 18 November, 1896 Archibald Constable & Company, London p. 31
The English Pre-Raphaelite Painters
Percy Bate 1901 G. Bell and Sons, London p.60-1
A B Chamberlain November 1925 - p.258
City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham: Catalogue of Paintings
1960 City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham -
Frederick Sandys
1974 Brighton Museum & Art Gallery pp. 27-28
Mythology and Misogyny: The Social Discourse of Nineteenth-Century British Classical-Subject Painting
Joseph A. Kestner 1989 The University of Wisconsin Press, USA pp. 171, 397; repr. pl. 3-28
Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue
Tomoko Sato, Toshio Watanabe 1991 Lund Humphries/Barbican Art Gallery, London p. 109; repr. p. 20
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection, England
Stephen Wildman - Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia p. 262; repr. 263
The Age Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Watts: Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910
1997 Tate Gallery, London pp. 161-162; repr. p. 161
The Blue Bower: Rossetti in the 1860s
Paul Spencer-Longhurst 2000 Scala Publishers, London p. 74; repr. p. 75
Eastern Daily Press
Ian Collins 19 October 2001 - pp. 40-41
Frederick Sandys 1829-1904: A Catalogue Raisonné
2001 Antique Collectors' Club in association with Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service) No. 2.A.89., pp. 184-186; repr. pl. 26
Evelyn Pickering de Morgan and the Allegorical Body
Elise Lawton Smith 2002 Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, madison, USA and Associated University Press, London pp. 100-104 and 220-221; repr. fig. 40
Femmes Fatales 1860-1910
2003 Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands p. 94; repr. p. 95
Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 3, no. 2
Alison Smith Septemebr 2005 Routledge, London pp. 151-164
Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites
Colin Cruise 2005 Birmingham Musuems and Art Gallery p. 141; repr. p. 141
The Pre-Raphaelites
2009 Nationalmuseum, Stockholm 146,p.215; fig.51


W.H.Clabburn; by descent to his daughter Mary and son-in-law E.Meredith Crosse 1879; their son E.Mitchell Crosse; Christie's 8 May 1925 (74); Trustees of the Public Picture Gallery Fund.
Lot 74.

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