When one thinks of it, Waterhouse painted just a few pathetic women (The Lady of Shalott and Mariana), but mostly he painted frightening women (Circe, Medea, the Sirens). These Danaide each murdered their husbands on their collective wedding night and were condemned to pour water into a perpetually flowing vessel….for eternity. Wait until you hear about Lamia.
Here, Medea, the daughter of the King of Colchis and niece of the sorceress Circe, mixes a potion for Jason, the adventurer of the Argo. It will protect him against fire-breathing bulls and warriors that spring from dragon’s teeth and help him seize the Golden Fleece.
“I will begin with that, ‘twixt me and thee,
That first befell. I saved thee. I saved thee —
Let thine own Greeks be witness, every one
That sailed on Argo — saved thee, sent alone
To yoke with yokes the bulls of fiery breath,
And sow that Acre of the Lords of Death;
And mine own ancient Serpent, who did keep
The Golden Fleece, the eyes that knew not sleep.
And shining coils, him also did I smite
Dead for thy sake, and lifted up the light
That bade thee live. Myself, uncounselled,
Stole forth from father and from home, and fled
where dark Iolcos under Pelion lies,
(translated by Gilbert Murray)