Evelyn De Morgan painted several subjects using medieval themes and stylistic devices which had been made popular by the Pre-Raphaelites, these paintings included “Queen Eleanor and the Fair Rosamund”, “The Hour Glass” and this painting "The Love Potion". Completed in 1903, Jane Morris, wife of William, sat as the model for the artist.
The Love Potion (1903) by Evelyn De MorganDe Morgan Collection
The female figure in the painting has often been described as the devious witch from fairy stories.
The inclusion of a black cat hints at the stereotypical depiction of diabolical sorceress...
However, more correctly the painting should be categorised within De Morgan's series of allegoric paintings on the progress of the soul towards enlightenment.
She is presented as a learned scholar, sitting in a light filled study surrounded by equipment. The books on the bookcase include works by some of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds.
Paracelsus was a Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer and occultist. De Morgan uses the colour symbolism promoted by Paracelsus within the painting.
The Paracelsus colour system which mark the progressive stages towards spiritual enlightenment is made up of black - the material state of guilt, sin and death.
White is symbolic of the early stages of purification.
The next colour in the stage to spiritual enlightenment is red. The red lions on the tapestry are a symbol for Christianity, strength and wisdom.
The final colour is yellow, the dominant colour in the painting, representing movement towards the gold of salvation.
Ultimately spiritual development results in the harmonious union of opposites – represented in this case by the courting couple seen through the window.
De Morgan uses her spiritualist vocabulary to subvert traditional stereotypes of women, providing instead a strong, powerful, skilled intelligent protagonist, capable of reaching the enlightenment she herself sought.