1 (2002), Nr. 1: Inhalt
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Charles Zika

Images of Circe and Discourses of Witchcraft,
1480-1580 [*]

The discourses of sorcery and witchcraft which developed throughout much of western and central Europe from the middle of the fifteenth century involved the production and circulation not only of literary and archival documents, but also of pictorial artifacts. As woodcut illustrations for theological or philosophical treatises, for historical chronicles or contemporary news-sheets, as single-leaf woodcuts or stand alone drawings, engravings, or even paintings, visual images of witchcraft must have played a significant role in developing this new discourse about witchcraft and the direction of the debates which it spawned. But precisely how pictorial images contributed to this process, to what extent they were implicated in it, and what impact they made on its direction, are questions which historians have barely begun to address. Traditionally, historians have tended to confine the significance of visual images to that of illustration or decoration. Consideration of the visual images of witchcraft has suffered a similar fate, with the exception of images produced by notable artists. But with a mounting level of interest over the last twenty-five years in the work of artists such as Hans Baldung Grien, the subject of witchcraft is no longer ignored by art historians.[1] There is nevertheless a tendency by art historians to limit attention to the aesthetically significant and novel work of recognised artists, and to ignore the cruder and sometimes more traditional, even though more widely available, woodcuts which served as book illustrations. And there is an inclination on the part of both historians and art historians to read these images in a very literal fashion, as depictions of actual witches or historical events or as straightforward illustrations or responses to particular demonological treatises.[2]

This paper is meant as a small contribution to the complex history of this process - the role played by visual images of witchcraft in disseminating and making credible notions of witches and witchcraft in the first century of the new technologies of print and print-making. As will be clear from the evidence provided below, I believe that the new technologies of print and print-making, which began to operate as a new cultural platform in a number of different centres in Italian-, French- and German-speaking territories from the last quarter of the fifteenth century, were critical to the new social currency which ideas of witchcraft were able to achieve in this period. Print and print-making significantly increased the speed with which new images could be created, as well as the breadth of their geographical and social circulation; they also facilitated a greater standardization in the representation of different subjects, even when allowing for significant variations and difference. And so, although the number and range of images was able to increase at an exponential rate, particular notions concerning the significance of witchcraft could be fixed by means of particular visual codes.

In this paper I concentrate on a very limited subject, the visual representation of the classical sorcerer or witch, Circe. By limiting the scope of my subject in this way, I wish to emphasise that the contribution of visual artifacts to a cultural discourse is hardly ever a unitary or straight-line development. As with other subjects, older visual traditions of sorcery survive despite the development of a new iconography of witchcraft by leading artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer, Urs Graf and especially Hans Baldung Grien in the early decades of the sixteenth century. But we need to be attuned to the resonances and visual cues from these developments, even when the images might remain faithful to older established visual traditions. In this way visual images are able to suggest links with other sets of meanings, in addition to their more obvious association with the literary documents and traditions to which they relate or respond.

A second reason for focusing on a classical witch figure as Circe, is that historians have paid little attention to the interest in classical models for sorcery and witchcraft on the part of sixteenth-century writers and artists, despite their widespread use in that period in underpinning debate concerning the incidence and powers of witchcraft. Whereas Margaret Sullivan's recent argument for the importance of classical literature in explaining the interest of sixteenth-century artists in the subject of witchcraft is timely, we need a far more detailed examination of the images which these artists created and their relationship to literary and visual traditions, before we can conclude, as she has, that particular artists and works were primarily stimulated by interest in classical literature rather than by a contemporary concern for the subject of witchcraft. Indeed, the two alternatives hardly need be exclusive; they are more likely to be complementary. Only by following the elaboration of iconographical traditions over time, through the recycling of images in different works, in successive editions, and in the duplications of copyists and plagiarists, and by being sensitive to the synergies between images and contemporary political, theological or cultural engagements, can we begin to suggest how images were being read and how they may reflect particular, though by no means unified, beliefs about witchcraft.

The world of classical literature certainly provided artists with rich sources for exploring the meanings of witchcraft. The mythography of Saturn and Diana, for instance, was drawn on very considerably in the sixteenth-century iconography of witchcraft.[3] But probably the most important role of classical literature was to furnish artists with specific examples of practitioners of magic, sorcery and witchcraft in the ancient world. Palaestra, Meroe, Pamphile, Medea, and in particular Circe, were all classical sorcerers or witches who became the subjects of sixteenth-century visual images. Of them all, it was Circe who received the most widespread and long-lived attention. The powerful sorceress of classical mythology especially well known for her transformation of the companions of the wandering Odysseus (or Ulysses) into beasts, was an immensely popular subject in the art and illustration of the period.[4] The most direct source for her visual depiction in this period, however, was not Homer's "Odyssey", as one might expect, but the writings of Boccaccio, Boethius, Virgil and Augustine. Boccaccio's work "On Famous Women" began to include images of Circe in fifteenth-century editions and the iconography was maintained well into the sixteenth.

In the 1473 edition printed by Johann Zainer in Ulm, for instance, Circe is depicted standing before Ulysses and his men transformed into animals - the first with the head of a lion, the second with that of a deer, and the two men behind Ulysses with heads of swine (fig. 1). Circe is clothed in ornate garments and with a turban-like head covering which resembles a crown, reflecting her status in Boccaccio's text as the sister of Aeëtes, king of Colchis, and wife of Picus, king of the Latins, as well as "daughter of the Sun".[5] There is little visual evidence of the means Circe used to perform her sorcery. There is of course her ornate and exotic garb, which is possibly meant to emphasise her "singular beauty" and "matchless attraction", by which, as Boccaccio argues, she could beguile men and make them lose their human reason. And there is her pointing gesture, which probably refers to her powerful magical spell, as it does in contemporary images of those other powerful women from antiquity, the sibyls.[6]

The types of animals represented in the woodcut and their appearance before Circe together with Ulysses are further elements which do not conform to the Homeric narrative. But they fit well with Boccaccio's text, since it leaves the types of animals undefined and ignores many elements of the Ulysses story. In line with Boccaccio's text, the woodcut is primarily concerned to emphasise Circe's role as a sorceress who exploits her powers of metamorphosis. The iconography of the print continued for more than fifty years. The Augsburg printer, Anton Sorg, only had minor changes made to the edition he published in 1479, as did the so-called Brussels Woodcutter, who illustrated the Louvain edition of 1487.[7] And when the prolific Augsburg printer, Heinrich Steiner, published the book in 1541 and again in 1543, the print he used by Jörg Breu included the same iconography and composition adapted from Sorg's Augsburg edition of more than sixty years earlier.[8] The range of animals into which Ulysses' companions had been transformed was simply expanded (now a lion, a boar, a rabbit and a stag) and they were clothed in more contemporary garb. The details of the classical narrative were clearly less important than Boccaccio's fundamental moral: "If we consider human behavior, we can well understand from this example that there are many Circes everywhere and many other men are changed into beasts by their lustfulness and their vices. And Ulysses, instructed by Mercury's advice, obviously signifies the wise man who cannot be bound by the trickery of deceitful people and who by his example often loosens the bonds of those who are held."[9]

Another common way of representing Circe stressed the means and instruments used by the sorcerer to carry out her transformation of Ulysses' companions.

This particular iconography may have derived from late medieval manuscript traditions,[10] but certainly received a critical impetus from a woodcut which originated in the Nuremberg workshop of Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and was published in Hartmann Schedel's "Nuremberg Chronicle" (fig. 2, fig. 2a), for the first time in the Latin edition of 1493 and then in the German edition later in the same year.[11] Indeed a number of prominent art historians have considered this woodcut to have been one of a small number of the 645 blocks produced for the work which were designed by the young Albrecht Dürer while he was an apprentice in the workshop.[12] Circe, described in Schedel's text (following Boccaccio) as "very beautiful" and "the daughter of the sun", is again dressed as a woman of noble birth, decked out in an ornate headdress, elegant garments, jewelry and fashionable footwear. But here she holds a cup which, the text tells the reader, contains the potion she has made by means of her magical arts and with which she transforms humans into animals. In the case of the Latin text, she is said to have created the potion by incantations and charms; the German text refers to her magical arts, but also introduces trickery or illusion as the basis for her powers ("durch ire kunst unnd gespenst"). And in order to emphasise the malign and illicit nature of her magic to a vernacular readership, the German text also calls her a "swartz koensterin" ("Schwartzkünstlerin"), a dealer in the black arts, a term which does not appear in the Latin. Despite her clearly noble appearance, this woman is identified not simply as a magician, but as a sorcerer and witch.

Further narrative elements from the "Odyssey" are provided in the woodcut, largely in line with Schedel's text. Ulysses and his companions are shown in the boat in which they spent ten years at sea after the Trojan war and came to the island of Aeaea in southern Italy where Circe was said to live. Ulysses's companions have already drunk of Circe's potion and have been transformed. They are shown with the heads of a deer, lion and goat, though the the third animal is clearly listed as a boar in the text. Looming over them and duly labelled is the figure of Ulysses. He gestures with his right hand as though in response to the gesture of Circe's assistant; and in his left he holds the Moly, the flower given him by Mercury as protection against Circe's "trickery and sorcery" ("gespenst und zawberey"). Absent from Schedel's text, though very prominent in the iconography, is the figure of Circe's assistant. Decked out in a Burgundian-style headdress, she sits at a table and very conspicuously points at the wand she holds up above a series of instruments which are difficult to identify. There is a bowl, what may be a short stick, two cups as used in the so-called cup and ball game, and what are likely to be balls, dice or coins. Her gesture draws the viewer's notice to her strange activity and would also seem to mimic that of Ulysses himself. The introduction of such a figure might have been influenced by a reading of Ovid, in which Circe's maids assist her preparation of herbs. But I would suggest that the specificity of the iconographical details would rather suggest that the figure might have been included in order to emphasise the "trickery and sorcery" ("gespenst und zawberey") on which Circe's potion is based and against which Ulysses' Moly flower was meant to protect him. As the vernacular text has twice introduced the notion of "gespenst" - trickery, deceit, delusion - to qualify the nature of Circe's sorcery when translating references to her "incantationes", so the artist has also drawn on a visual code for trickery which must have been well understood to at least some of the readers of the "Nuremberg Chronicle" who were visually literate.


The figure from the visual history of the period to bear the closest relationship to Circe's assistant is the larger than life conjuror in well known engraving of 1565 after a drawing of Pieter Bruegel, "Fall of the Magician Hermogenes" (fig. 3). The woman in Bruegel's image is shown playing with her cups, balls and stick in the middle of a chaotic carnival scene in which musicians, contortionists, sword dancers, jugglers, acrobats, tightrope walkers, puppeteers and other trickesters and street performers play their arts, trickery and illusions; and her performance is mimicked by a tiny gryllus with an egg on its head. Bruegel's figure is modelled on another well known trickster from visual history, the conjuror from Hieronymus Bosch's painting of the same name, who is shown exercising magical deception and also theft on an awestruck audience. The painting was completed in the last quarter of the fifteenth century and was immensely popular, evident from the six surviving copies, five paintings and a print.[13]

But what is critical for understanding the figure of Circe's assistant in the "Nuremberg Chronicle", is that Bosch and Bruegel were both drawing on a well known visual code which had long been used to represent the trickery or illusion perpetrated by conjurors associated with carnival. A figure at a table with cups, balls and a stick or wand, appears in numerous so-called "Children of Luna" images through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. One of the fashionable and novel forms of social analysis and commentary in this period was to link social classes, occupations, professions, societal groups, and even psychological profiles and states, with astrology - with the planets and signs of the zodiac. In this way conjurors were linked to sailors, fishermen, fowlers, millers, bathers and vagrants; for all were considered to share in the cold and moist qualities of the moon. They were the children of Luna and manifested the fluidity and speedy movement of the moon, in their fickle, capricious, unstable and independent behaviour and nature. The conjuror with his cups and balls, who features so prominently in most of these images, clearly merits his identification with Luna because of two characteristics: firstly, he represents the archetypal vagrant, travelling from fair to fair for his living; and his living, and by virtue of that his identity, is premised on the manipulation of reality by the use of trickery, illusion and falsehood. We find illustrations of a conjuror with cups and balls on a table as a central figure in Children of Luna images from as early as 1404 - in a Tübingen manual on astrology and medicine - and their number increases through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In the fifteenth century they are found in several German manuscripts, in an engraving by Baccio Baldini of c. 1460, and then in several block books from the 1460s and 70s.[14]

A block book now in Berlin (fig. 4) possibly provided the model for the most well known and exquisitely executed of these images, that from the so-called "Medieval Housebook", an illustrated manuscript completed between 1475 and 1485 by an artist simply known as The Housebook Master or the Master of The Amsterdam Cabinet.[15]

The inclusion in the Circe woodcut for the "Nuremberg Chronicle" of an assistant who holds a wand and has cups and balls on a table before her, would seem to have been a conscious attempt to link the classical sorceress to this visual tradition of conjurors and tricksters. And if the young Dürer was indeed the artist, he may have learnt of the motif from The Housebook Master, whose influence upon Dürer is widely attested.[16] However, given the widespread use of the motif in the later decades of the fifteenth century, it could also have been known to Dürer or any other artist from other sources, whether block books or manuscripts.

But there is no doubt that the conjuror motif was an integral element in the woodcut from the beginning, for both the Latin and German layout volumes, which were being designed by Wolgemut and Pleydenwurff as early as 1487/88 when Dürer was an apprentice in the workshop, include this figure in the very early designs (fig. 5).[17] The specificity of the motif suggests that the illustration is picking up on the emphasis found in the wording of the German edition, that Circe's powers of metamorphosis are based on both her sorcery and her trickery ("gespenst und zawberey").

By the second half of the sixteenth century, the rhetoric of "trickery" and "delusion" was clearly identified as the devil's work. The two works on witchcraft written by Johann Weyer in the 1560s and 1570s, for instance, included "Teuffelsgespenst" (the tricks of the devil) as a key term in their German titles.[18] One source for the understanding of magic and sorcery as demonic delusion was Augustine; and so it is unsurprising that Schedel's text concerning Circe begins with an acknowledgement of Augustine and Boethius as sources. In his "City of God", Bk. 18, chs. 17-18, Augustine specifically rejected Circe's transformation of Ulysses' companions as a real transformation. He argued that it was merely apparent and involved phantasms which had been created through demons to deceive and delude the human senses. And it was precisely in this way that the near contemporary "Malleus Maleficarum", which was well known in Nuremberg in the early 1490s before it came out in two Nuremberg editions published by Koberger shortly after the "Nuremberg Chronicle" in 1494 and again in 1496, made use of Augustine's interpretation of Circe's powers of metamorphosis.[19] Another work which was also likely to have been known to Koberger and the Wolgemut workshop was Ulrich Molitor's "On Female Witches and Seers" ("De Laniis et Phitonicis Mulieribus"), published for the first time in 1489 and then fifteen more times in Latin and three times in German ("Von den Unholden") before 1500. Here too, in the discussion of whether witches possess the power of metamorphosis, Augustine's "City of God" is cited to stress the trickery of the devil, and another work attributed to him, the "De spiritu et anima" to explain that the transformation which occurs by means of the devil is little more than a phantasm.[20] The figure of Circe's assistant in the "Nuremberg Chronicle" woodcut would seem to represent a visual version of this argument, that Circe exercised her sorcery by means of demonic delusion.

The second source cited by Hartmann Schedel for his account of Circe is Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy".[21] Boethius does not present a narrative account of the Circe story, but lays emphasis on the poison administered by Circe as a metaphor for human bestiality. Some, such as Ulysses' companions, will succumb to it; others, such as Ulysses, will resist it. Schedel's text and the accompanying image represent this magical struggle between the two protagonists, Circe with her poisonous cup and Ulysses with his protective Moly plant, even though the visual emphasis is weighted towards Circe's magic rather than Ulysses' counter-magic. This iconography contrasts markedly with the much simpler representation of metamorphosis used in the earlier Boccaccio editions. The use of potions or poisons was well established as part of the sorcerer's and witch's stock in trade by the later fifteenth century,[22] and here the magical nature of Circe's drink is established visually by the wand and magical paraphernalia, which find no mention in the Schedel and Boethius texts. Perhaps the Wolgemut workshop had access to earlier illustrated manuscripts of Boethius from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which we know to have depicted the confrontation between Circe with her enchanted cup and Ulysses with his Moly flower.[23]

The emphasis on Circe's sorcery as an act of demonic deception in the 1493 woodcut quickly disappears from the iconography.

Even by 1496, when Johann Schoensperger brought out the first of his three pirated editions of the "Chronicle" in Augsburg (with further editions in 1497 and 1500), this element dropped out completely (fig. 6). The basic elements of the original 1493 woodcut survived in a crude adaptation of the original print. Ulysses is again shown standing in a ship offshore, but only one of his companions is depicted, his head transformed into that of a boar. Opposite Ulysses on the island is Circe, whose cup of poison in this woodcut seems to be spewing out flames. The confrontation between Circe and Ulysses is no longer evident, for the Moly has now disappeared. It is Circe's flaming cup and a concurrent sense of her extraordinary powers which have become the visual centre and focus of the woodcut.

The compositional format of the "Nuremberg Chronicle" woodcuts and the strong association of Circe's powers with a magical potion survived in images through the sixteenth century. In the 1530s or 40s, for instance, the Nuremberg artist Georg Pencz, produced a pen and ink drawing which depicted Circe and an assistant presenting a goblet to Ulysses, shown on his ship with his transformed companions.[24] The Schedel image was clearly the model; however the exoticism of the scene was removed and both Circe and Ulysses were given contemporary clothing. This would seem to be in line with a strong tendency to allegorise the story in the sixteenth century, as we shall see. Pencz also endeavoured to pay closer attention to the literary text than did his predecessor: so the transformed companions are now represented as the wild boar, stag and lion referred to in Boethius and Schedel. While the scene is again one of confrontation between Circe and Ulysses, the magical Moly provided by Mercury no longer features: this is more of a human struggle in which will rather than magic is crucial, for Ulysses is shown with both hands raised in a gesture of rejection.[25]

The power of Circe to transform, to cross and negotiate the borders between the beastly and the human, a power which could be read as evil and even demonic, is the major import of many of these images. Within the historical development of the Circe figure, it was the Roman poets Virgil and Ovid, who played the most important role in endowing her with essentially negative qualities.[26] The earliest illustration of Virgil's Circe appears in the first illustrated edition of Virgil's works, which was edited by Sebastian Brant and printed by Johann Grüninger in Strasbourg in 1502.[27]

The 1502 woodcut was used again in the 1515 German translation of the "Aeneid" by Thomas Murner, and also in the 1529 Lyon edition (fig. 7); while a rather coarse copy of the block was reproduced in the Venice editions of 1533 and 1552.[28] These woodcut images were illustrations to Virgil's brief account of Circe, found at the beginning of Book VII of the "Aeneid". Circe is shown as mistress of an island, which, the text tells us, men are accustomed to shun. Clothed in an ornate garment and crowned, she is seated on a hillside, spinning with her distaff and spindle. She is surrounded by cages, in which are three wolves, a bear and a lion, and also a shed in which wild boars are feeding. These animals, Virgil's text tells the reader, are the sailors which Circe has transformed with her potent herbs and now keeps chained; and the text lays emphasis on the terrible sounds they make - they growl, roar, howl and foam with rage. The imprisonment in the form of cages in the woodcut would seem to represent a visual version of the aural misery in the text. Behind Circe on a hill a fire burns vigorously, while in the background her woods and palace can be seen. And at the top right corner are the funerary rites of Aeneas' nurse, Caieta, rites which Aeneas had performed just before the winds had blown him to the island of "the cruel goddess".

This frequently reproduced figure of Circe, spinning and surrounded by her transformed and caged animals, could have been readily identified as a malefic witch in the early sixteenth century. Circe's spinning was no doubt meant by the artist to illustrate the account in Virgil's text, while the prominent fire on the hill behind the goddess represented the cedar burning in her palace and illuminating the night. But by the second decade of the sixteenth century, if not earlier, the distaff and spindle had been often used to make visual associations with witchcraft;[29] and so together with the belching fire (even without a cauldron) the scene would have been recognised as involving powerful sorcery or witchcraft. A woman whose natural domain was shown to be the animal world would also have fitted well with images of witchcraft in the early sixteenth century. Circe here epitomizes that liminal space witches were understood to inhabit between the realm of the human and the beastly, an idea strongly communicated from the turn of the sixteenth century through the common image of witches in the presence of animals.

It is perhaps not so surprising, then, that in the 1508 Venice edition of the "Aeneid", which only featured a single woodcut at the beginning of each of the twelve books, a woodcut depicting Aeneas' ship passing the island of Circe was chosen for Book VII (fig. 8). And the visual cues surrounding Circe are a distaff and spindle, a belching fire, and caged animals. While Circe only occupies a brief 15 lines out of more than 800 in Book VII, it was possibly the immediately recognisable, explicable and also topical representation of this ancient female sorcerer which influenced the choice of her over other figures and events.[30]

Ovid's portrayal of Circe in the "Metamorphoses", Book XIV, went well beyond Virgil's emphasis on her cruelty in subordinating men to her power. Ovid's account also described a goddess whose heart was "more susceptible to love" than any other. And her wicked spells and potions of herbs and powders, the black arts which she'd learnt from Hecate, were directed primarily at those who spurned her love. In Ovid, Circe's sorcery is clearly governed by her lust, and the beasts which populate her palace are the victims of that lust. They are described at one point as "the host of fawning beasts", and at another as "a horde of wild animals, a thousand strong".[31] The unfortunate Scylla, for instance, had her legs transformed by Circe into a pack of barking wild dogs, when her lover Glaucus rejected Circe's love; Picus, king of Ausonia, was turned into a woodpecker for spurning Circe's love;[32] and Ulysses' companions were turned back into human shape in order that Circe could win Ulysses' love. Some images of Circe in the early sixteenth century seem to have been decisively influenced by Ovid's emphases and show her surrounded by an assortment of animals, as mistress of and mistress to men's lusts.

In the 1518 Lyon edition of the "Metamorphoses", for instance, Circe is shown in her bed chamber, surrounded by two cows, a horse, a bear, a fox, two birds, a cat, a serpent, a toad, a duck, a cockatrice and a dragon (fig. 9). In the 1517 Milan edition the woodcut offers a very similar scene, with only small changes to some of the animals depicted - a swan instead of the duck, a donkey instead of the dragon, an extra snail and goat.[33] It is significant that none of the animals shown are pigs, into which Ulysses' companions were transformed in Ovid's account; although one would have to conclude that the male figure approaching Circe in the woodcut is none other than Ulysses, come to plead for the transformation of his companions back into human form. This lack of swine in the image was presumably the reason why the artist who copied the Milan, Lyon or similar woodcut for the Venice edition of 1586, mistakenly labelled this male figure as Glaucus, for when Glaucus came to Circe's island, he had already long been transformed into a sea-god with a fish's tail.[34] But whether the male figure is Ulysses or Glaucus, the scene emphasises the variety of Circe's victims and the long history of her powers of transformation. And lust as the impetus for the exercise of that power is suggested by the location in Circe's bedroom, and by her hair which has been loosened so as to hang to the waist.

An image of Circe which seeks to be more faithful to Ovid's text is found in the edition of the "Metamorphoses" published by Jean de Tournes in Lyon in 1557 with woodcuts by Bernard Salomon.[35]

The image circulated widely: it was copied by Virgil Solis for the 1563 Frankfurt edition of the "Metamorphoses" (fig. 10), and this was later reproduced in the 1581 Frankfurt edition of Nicholaus Reusner's "Emblemata".[36] Here Ulysses' companions are only shown as pigs. A number have already been fully transformed and are shown on all fours; two still stand upright with their human trunks, but one of these already has the head of a pig. The iconography clearly stresses the process of transformation. Indeed, Circe is depicted offering the magical potion to the figure with the pig's head, while she also taps him on the head with her wand. This is most likely to be Macareus, who relates the story in Ovid's account and not least his own dramatic transformation, as his body began to bristle with stiff hairs and his mouth hardened into a snout. In the background, a figure can be seen escaping through a doorway, clearly the figure of Eurylochus who was the only one of Ulysses' men to avoid the poisoned cup and to run to Ulysses for help. The figure of Circe herself is also strongly influenced by Ovid's emphasis on her sexual drives. She is an alluring figure, with her garments shown clinging to her body shape, clearly revealing the contours of her stomach and breasts, her skirt split to reveal her leg to the thigh. Salomon's Circe is clearly meant to represent the woman of Ovid's "Metamorphoses", driven by her lust and jealousy, and vengeance towards those who would spurn her.


A heavily allegorical meaning more in common with the 1508 illustration to Ovid is communicated by a painting of Circe by Dosso Dossi dated c. 1511-12 and held by the National Gallery of Art, Washington (fig. 11).[37] Circe is located within an idyllic landscape, surrounded by animals, some of which play no part at all in literary accounts: a lioness, a spoonbill, a doe, an owl, a falcon, a stag and dogs. She is depicted as a figure who operates not with poisons or sorcery but with the learned incantations of high magic. She is a female variant of the learned magician and is linked to the powerful and wise diviners and prophets, the Sibyls. Likewise, the techniques which Circe uses have little to do with the classical stories of Ulysses. The words inscribed upon the tablet to which she points and the magical talismans shown in the open book at her feet are the instruments she uses to transform her victims. Dossi's novel depiction of Circe as naked [38] would seem to allude to bodily seduction as the source of her power, a view which fits well with Ovid's emphasis on Circe's lust and Boccaccio's allegorical interpretation of the transformation of Ulysses' companions as the consequences of uncontrolled lust. Dossi was perhaps familiar with the naked witches of Dürer and especially those of Hans Baldung Grien, who had completed his well known chiaroscuro woodcut one or two years earlier in 1510, and which would have circulated fairly widely, given the four versions and four additional copies by other artists which have survived.[39] In that case it would then have seemed appropriate to depict the beautiful sorceress and seductress of antiquity in similar fashion, naked except for the flowers braided through her suitably loose, flowing hair.

The depiction of Circe as a kind of Sibyl-magician who operated with magical talismans is matched in a closely related painting of c. 1515-16 by Dossi, which is often given the title of "Circe". But as Peter Humphrey, Felton Gibbons and others have argued, the subject is more likely to be a depiction of Melissa, the good fairy or unwitcher from Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso", who breaks the spells of her Circean opposite, Alcina.[40] Ariosto's poem, first published in 1516, was circulating in the Ferrarese court of Alfonso d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia as early as 1512, and Dossi, court painter since 1514, must have been familiar with it. Melissa is depicted in Dossi's painting seated, richly clothed in scarlet and gold brocade, an exotic oriental turban ornamented with jewels and shimmering gold thread on her head, not unlike the representations of Circe and the Sibyls in editions of Boccaccio's "On Famous Women". But here she is also surrounded by a magic circle in which are seen pseudo-inscriptions, and holds drawings of magical talismans. She is shown lighting her torch from a brazier in the manner of the Witch of Endor in Cornelisz van Oostsanen's painting of 1526.[41] Gibbons has argued that the knights seen in the background have just been released from their bewitchment. Indeed a recent X-radiograph of the painting shows that Dossi had originally placed a standing figure of a knight in armour where the dog is situated in the final version, with the armour the only clue to his earlier presence.[42] While Melissa's eyes were fixed on the knight before he was painted out, in the finished version they are directed to the embroyonic shapes of four paladins who emerge from the tree trunks at upper left, a process of transformation back into human shape after their transformations into plants by the evil Alcina as described in Ariosto's poem. Other victims in the shape of a dog and two birds await their liberation by Melissa. Whether a direct illustration of Ariosto's text or not, Dossi's exotic enchantress does seem to have been inspired by Ariosto's fantasy world of magic and romance. And it is clear that she has little to do with the visual traditions of sorcery and witchcraft which develop at this time. Dosso draws on the visual traditions associated with the depiction of learned magicians and also the Sibyls; and not surprisingly then, achieves considerable importance in the following century, in the depiction of Circe by such artists as Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Antonio Maria Vassallo.[43]

An equally powerful and elegant, yet sexually more self-conscious, figure of Circe, surrounded by monstrous beasts of whose threat she seems totally oblivious, is found in a series of images from the first half of the sixteenth century which stem from Parmigianino.

In these images - two separate drawings and a chiaroscuro woodcut by Parmigianino, as well as several copies of all three by later artists - Circe stands before those soon to become her victims, erect, almost statuesque, contrasted with their bent postures, part of her garment billowing out around her and framing her head and upper body almost as an aureole, as she supports the cup from which one of Ulysses' companions is shown drinking her magical concoction (fig. 12). The contours of her body shape and breasts are clearly visible through her garments, as in the later engraving by Bernard Salomon. Behind her is a monstrous snarling dragon and at her feet a serpent. These are hardly the beasts of Homer or even Ovid's story, but are clearly inserted in order to identify the demonic forces behind the power of this sorcerer. In what is probably an earlier drawing, Circe is even shown drinking from the potion herself, perhaps as a suggestion that she too shared in the beastly natures of the fierce and malevolent shapes around her, who slither and snarl, one even appearing to attack its fellows (fig. 13).[44] The particular composition was remarkably successful, for as well as leading to chiaroscuro woodcut copies, it was taken up in an engraving by Giulio Bonasone, and in etchings by Antonio Fantuzzi and Master L.D.[45]


The etching by Fantuzzi in particular (fig. 14), probably executed in 1542, achieves an extraordinary sense of foreboding through the scaly skins of the dragon and serpent. To those viewers who knew Book XIV of the "Metamorphoses", it would have been reminiscent of Ovid's description of the observations of Picus' colleagues just before they were touched by Circes' wand and transformed into wild beasts: "the stones seemed to utter hoarse rumblings, dogs barked, the earth crawled with black snakes, and shadowy ghosts flitted noiselessly here and there".[46] And the figure of Circe embodies a raw magical and sexual power. Despite a composition which seemed to depend indirectly on the artist who designed the woodcut for the "Nuremberg Chronicle", this scene is not an allegory about human nature and sin, or even the deceptive illusions of magic. Circe's seductive evil and destructive power is now the focus. She is the mistress of the terrifying shapes around her. There is no struggle; no conflict; Circe is wholly in control, dispensing her evil brew, lording it over the men already under her power, though they are still in human form. The seductions of the harlot are not hid by the poise and elegance of the figure who is literally engaged in unmanning her male subordinates. In the first half of the sixteenth century this sexually charged image of witchcraft dovetailed perfectly with the seductive female bodies developed by artists such as Hans Baldung Grien, Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Altdorfer and Urs Graf. It is Ovid's Circe, a figure of the ancient sorcerer driven by lust; but it is also that of the contemporary witch of early sixteenth century representation, subordinating male victims to her will, unmanning them and overturning the proper moral and gender order.

It was this last view of Circe as a figure of sexual seduction, together with a long medieval allegorizing tradition which included Augustine, Boethius, Bocaccio, the "Moralized Ovid" and John of Frankfurt,[47] which laid the ground for Circe's adoption by the authors of emblem books in sixteenth-century Europe. The new genre of emblem books, beginning with the "Emblemata" of Andrea Alciato, first published in Augsburg by Heinrich Steiner in 1531, used visual images, poems and mottoes in a coordinated way to present moralizing messages to their readers.[48] A series of editions of Alciato's work were next published by the Wechel press in Paris during the 1530s and 1540s, and these included French and German translations. New emblems were being constantly added, as well as new or revised images for the mottoes and poems which already existed. The popularity of Alciato's emblems was extraordinary and the number of editions quickly multiplied into dozens, and by the end of the seventeenth century totalled more than two hundred. By the mid sixteenth century the somewhat haphazard sequence of epigrams which derived from the original edition was converted to a more systematic reference work which gathered the emblems under particular themes or topics as commonplace sayings which took on an authoritative status in the communication of moral and ethical teaching.

Circe was one classical figure who became the subject of an emblem, "Beware of Whores" ("Cavendum a meretricibus"). In the editions of the "Emblemata" which were arranged under commonplace headings, the emblem featuring Circe was grouped with a series on "luxuria" or licentiousness. The earliest image of Circe which I have been able to find appeared in the edition of the "Emblemata" published in Venice by the sons of Aldus Manutius in 1546.[49]

Another was by the artist Pierre Vase or du Vase (Peter Eskreich) for the Emblemata printed by Macé Bonhomme in Lyon in 1550 (fig. 15), one of the most complete and most influential Alciato editions for the later sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century tradition. No detailed study of the particular images used in editions of Alciato and in the emblem books of other authors exists. But this image must have featured in many of the thirty five editions of the work published between 1548 and 1616 by Bonhomme, his frequent collaborator and Lyon bookseller and publisher Guillaume Rouillé, by the two in association or by their heirs.[50] It was also used in the 1567 Frankfurt edition of Alciato collected and edited by Jeremias Held of Nördlingen.[51] The text tells of the power of Circe, who turned many into "new monstrous shapes" - among them Picus, Scylla and "the Ithacans who became pigs after drinking the wine". The meaning of the image is left to the last two lines of verse: "Circe with her famous name indicates a whore and shows that any man who loves such a one loses his reason."[52] The epigram in Marquale's Italian version, published in Lyon in 1551, includes the same woodcut and is even more expansive: "Thus, those who set out to chase women lose their mind and reason".[53] The woodcut shows a Circe figure seated on a throne with a cape or part of her garment billowing around her head in the fashion developed by Parmigianino, his copyists and imitators (cf. figs 11-13). At her feet are the various humans she has transformed into animals: a goat whose head she touches with her wand, a lion, two swine, and to her left a dog and two baboons. As this Circe takes on some of the physical and stylistic characteristics of Parmigianino's figure, she also communicates an image of total dominance, with the animals at her feet diplaying utter subservience. The wand doubles as a rod of authority and justice, as well as a phallus wielded by the harlot, an instrument by which men are unmanned and transformed into subordinate beasts. There is certainly the resonance of Aristotle and Phyllis here, the emasculating she-man, the prostitute with whip, club or rod.[54]

In the 1580s some editions of Alciato included a new image which was a variation on the iconography above.[55] Circe is no longer depicted enthroned, but is now set within a rural landscape in which she takes on the appearance of a shepherdess. She is depicted again with a staff, with which she touches one of Ulysses' sailors who has been transformed into a boar. An ass, a goat and a dog are also to be seen. And there is one very prominent detail not found in any images of Circe other than in paintings by Dossi and Pellegrino Tibaldi: the sorceress is depicted bare-breasted, the upper part of her garment folded up in front of her, perhaps to hold the herbs for which, Ovid's text tells us, the goddess was so famous.[56] The transformation of Circe into a prostitute has been completed and she is now presented as the lascivious destroyer of those who fail to resist her seductions. Perhaps the admonition of Geoffrey Whitney, who incorporated the image into his 1586 English emblem collection, A "Choice of Emblemes", expresses most clearly Circe's transformation into a source of sexual danger. Whitney's motto reads "Homines voluptatibus transformantur" ("Men are transformed by pleasure"), and he concludes his verses by addressing the reader/ viewer: "Oh stoppe your eares, and shutte your eies, of Circe's cuppes beware".[57] The image of Circe before the viewer's eyes represents the sensual seduction which every reasoned man must reject. Indeed, in a quite unusual image of Circe and Ulysses found in the emblem book of Mathias Holtzwart, which was published in Strasbourg in 1581, the two protagonists are depicted in combat, exchanging physical blows while a group of Ulysses' transformed companions look on. The German epigram concludes by addressing the reader in similar fashion to Whitney, that he follows the example of Ulysses' behaviour by resisting Circe and throwing whores out of his house.[58]

The epigram accompanying Geoffrey Whitney's image of Circe tells the reader that although Ulysses' transformed companions had the choice to be changed back into humans, they refused. It was their "wicked love" which led them to prefer serving Circe to becoming humans again; but it was their loss of human sense or reason which ensured that their decisions would remain those of brute beasts. In Whitney's image at least, Circe's wand is not so much an instrument to be used for transformation - for re-transformation has already been rejected - but a rod used to control those effectively enslaved to Circe and their desires. The allegorizing tradition from Boethius to Alciato, which interpreted the metamorphosis as a loss of human reason, provided the basis for the broad re-identification of Circe in the sixteenth century with the range of vices and passions which enslave reason. It has been claimed that this Circe was largely inherited from Servius' "Commentary on Virgil's Aeneid", and then fed into Neoplatonic thinkers such as Christoforo Landino and Giovanni Pico, and possibly also influenced views of metamorphosis found in Simone Fornari's commentary on Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso".[59] As a kind of culmination of such a tradition, Circe now became representative of all the passions, the very embodiment of Vice itself. She was presented in this manner in Natale Conti's widely-used mythological manual, the "Mythologiae", which became the standard and most influential work on the interpretation of classical mythology and literature in the later sixteenth century. The first edition of Conti's work appeared in 1551, and the second edition, with a dedication to King Charles IX of France, in 1568.

Conti's work provided the philosophical and mythographical basis for a surviving visual image of such a Circe from the so-called "Ballet Comique de la Reyne" published in Paris in 1582 (fig. 16).

The "Ballet Comique de la Reyne" was a theatrical spectacle of the new genre of "ballet de cour", involving music, songs, poetry and dance, as well as sumptuous costuming, staging and visual effects in the fashion of the later English court masque.[60] It was presented by Queen Louise of Lorraine and directed by Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx, as part of the celebrations held in October 1581 in honour of the wedding between Louise's sister, Marguerite, and King Henri III's favourite, the Duke of Joyeuse. The "Balet Comique" represented the struggle between Virtue and Vice and the ultimate victory of Virtue through the power of Reason and Wisdom. While Minerva embodied Reason and Wisdom, virtues resplendent in the person of the French king, Circe personnified Vice in the form of all the passions. Circe is the agent of disordered change on a physical, moral and natural level. As she brings change to the seasons, to time and to corruption in nature, she also leads men into vice. She is a disruptive force working against the world's stability and harmony, personified in the king. This representation of Circe was circulated well beyond the audience who witnessed the performance in 1581, when the "Balet Comique" was published, first in February 1582 and again in 1612.[61] And it was made even more accessible to readers through the engraving by Jacques Patin which depicted the opening scene of the performance (fig. 16). The engraving shows the Salle de Bourbon in the Louvre, with the royal party seated at the end closest to the viewer, and the king, Henri III, in the middle, flanked by his mother Catherine de Medici on his right and the Duke de Joyeuse on his left.[62] They are watched over by four Swiss guards with pikes; to the right are foreign ambassadors and behind them the ladies of the court. On the right side of the hall beneath the galleries crammed with viewers, there is an oak wood, in which the figure of Pan can be seen. From the trees hang silver lamps made in the form of ships; while behind the trees musicians were apparently concealed. On the left at ground level, billowing clouds, gilded and covered with stars, form a long vault (the "voûte dorée"), and in it groups of musicians and singers were placed. Directly opposite the king and the royal party at the far end of the hall, within a garden framed by a triple arch of trellis, is the contrary principle, the figure of Circe. She sits on her throne, as she was frequently depicted in the emblem books, her magic wand in her hand, and in front of her the transformed companions of Ulysses - in the form of a stag, a dog, an elephant, a lion, a tiger and a pig.[63] And in the centre of the hall a gentleman is shown addressing the king. The text tells the reader that this is a Ulysses figure who has escaped from the garden of Circe. On account of his personal greed he had come under the power of Circe, and he and his companions had then been transformed into brute beasts. Circe had fortunately agreed in his case to transform him back into human form; so he now comes before the king, who has brought the Golden Age to France and alone has the power to resist such magic, to make an appeal that he might be protected from falling again under the power of this evil sorceress.[64]

This opening scene of the "Balet Comique" establishes the central theme and action of the whole performance. According to the exposition in the accompanying text, Circe controls all change and all human desire for change. She represents the passions and vices which have not been controlled by Reason. And the performance as a whole represents this struggle between Vice on the one hand, and Reason and Wisdom on the other. The action involves a series of entries, accompanied by music, song and dance, by different mythological figures, who try unsuccessfully to destroy the power of Circe: tritons, sirens, naiades (played by Queen Louise and her ladies), the sea-gods Glaucus and Tethys, Mercury, Pan and the dryads. It is finally Minerva, escorted by the four Virtues, and aided by the father of the gods, Jupiter, who succeeds in breaking Circe's spell and power. At the end of the performance the vanquished Circe is led before the king and gives over to him her magic wand the symbol of her power. Reason, Wisdom and Virtue have conquered Vice.

The figure of Circe in the "Ballet Comique", as both Frances Yates and Margaret McGowan have argued, was meant to further intellectual debates within the French academies concerned with the rule of the passions and reason, and the role of king as custodian of political, social and moral harmony and virtue in a period following the terrible brutality and upheaval of civil war. The ballet had a political and religious function at a historical moment when Henri III's Counter Reformation was being made very visible through the public performances of penitential processions through Paris streets, with the king, queen and members of the court taking part.[65] The central role given to Circe's wand in the ballet, as the sorcery instrument with which she immobilised her enemies and which she finally surrendered to the king, also demonstrates how Circe's powers in this courtly setting are closely identified with the learned magic of the Renaissance magician. The cup of poison or the distaff and fire are not Circe's attributes in this case; it is with the wand that she performs her magic and attempts to break the rule of reason and order. So while it is inappropriate to identify this Circe in any simple fashion with traditions of popular witchcraft, it is also difficult to believe that the theatrical presentation of an ancient female sorcerer as the embodiment of all the vices in the France of 1581 had no relationship at all to contemporary discussions of witchcraft. The year before the performance of the ballet, in fact, Jean Bodin published in Paris his massive demonology and most important witchcraft treatise of the later sixteenth century, "De la démonomanie des sorciers", which he had been writing since 1578. Bodin had been in the service of the king's youngest brother, the Duke of Alençon, since about 1571 and immediately after the Joyeuse wedding in October 1581 he accompanied the Duke to England in his unsuccessful attempt to win Queen Elizabeth's hand. And although the rate of witch trials in the kingdom of France remained fairly consistent during this period, in the Lorraine territory of the Guise family, of which both queen and bride were members and with which the king was attempting to create some bond through the wedding, the rate of witch prosecutions increased exponentially in these years. Nicholas Remy, the demonologist and "procureur général" of the duchy, who had been active in pursuing witches in Lorraine since 1576, would be called "the scourge of witches" a few years later in 1583. Whereas the relationship between the Circe of the "Ballet Comique" and contemporary witchcraft discourse is far from clear and demands detailed examination, the failure to address this relationship in the otherwise very perceptive analyses of the work by Yates and McGowan are also quite inadequate.

It is clear then, from this far from exhaustive study of images of Circe in the first century of printing and print-making, that there was considerable interest by visual artists of the period in this ancient sorcerer. It was an interest which was clearly demonstrated in the print production of this period and the popularity of Circe's image was no doubt assisted by the capacity of the print medium to circulate images to a broad audience with previously unknown speed. While there were a few paintings and frescoes of Circe executed in this period, and a few drawings as well, the overwhelming majority of images were woodcuts and engravings. The interest in Circe was also partly a by-product of a broader interest in classical literature and mythography, for a significant number of the images which have survived were produced as illustrations to accompany new editions of Virgil and Ovid. But as is clear from a study of the illustrations produced for the many new editions of Virgil's "Aeneid", it was by no means mandatory to reproduce images of Circe when illustrating Virgil's text, especially given that her story only received very brief treatment by the Roman poet. Indeed, the visual evidence would suggest that renewed interest in Christian writers of late antiquity such as Augustine and Boethius, as well as later medieval writers as Boccaccio, were (at least indirectly) as strong an influence on late fifteenth- and sixteenth-century visual images of Circe as the revival of classical literature itself. This is matched by the study in recent years of the significant role of late medieval texts in the transmission of classical stories and ideas.[66]

These different narratives and accounts of Circe provided the basis for the considerable variation in the way she was depicted in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But the one common and consistent element in all the visual depictions of Circe was her power to transform humans into animals; and in most instances this involved the transformation of the Ithacans who accompanied Ulysses during his ten years of wanderings through the Aegean after the battle of Troy, into different kinds of beasts. Whether Circe achieved this by a magic potion or wand, in reality or as some form of trickery or illusion, as seductress or demonic witch, her power to cross over the borders between the animal and the human, and thereby imprison and subvert humans to her will and her control, was the consistent message her image conveyed. It was found in the earliest printed images of Circe in fifteenth-century editions of Boccaccio's work on famous women and also in the most widely disseminated images of Circe from the sixteenth century, as found in the new Renaissance genre of emblem books. In both these cases, the fascination of Circe's powers of transformation rested on the allegorical ways in which those powers could be understood.

The "great power" of Circe ("tam magna potentia"), referred to even in the most allegorical of interpretations such as in the emblem books, could only be explained by reference to magic or sorcery. Yet there is no clear and strong evidence of the influence of the new witchcraft iconography of witchcraft on these images. The clearest case of the influence of the literary discourse of witchcraft would seem to be the inclusion of the cup and ball game in the woodcut of Circe in Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle. It would appear that contemporary discussion of Augustine's text in witchcraft treatises as the "Malleus Maleficarum" and the "De laniis" led Schedel to emphasise the illusory character of Circe's black arts, and the artist in turn attempted to represent this claim in visual form. While Augustine's conclusion about the reality of such magic was ambivalent and was used to support quite different positions in the debates over the nature of witchcraft during the following century and more, this would seem to be a case of the iconography responding to such discourse, and responding by use of a specifically visual code for illusion and trickery. It certainly does seem to be the case that the demonic character of the beasts associated with Circe in the iconography of Parmigianino and copyists such as Fantuzzi would have been encouraged not simply by an Ovidian reading of the sorceress' power but also by her association with a contemporary iconography of witchcraft which was beginning to place increasing emphasis on the specifically demonic basis of a witches' power. And the overtly sexual nature of Circe's power, whether communicated through the alluring beauty of Dossi's naked figure, or through the development of Circe into the whore figure of the "Emblemata", must have been at the very least assisted by the visual image of the early sixteenth-century witch as a woman with a fierce sexual appetite whose purpose was to emasculate men and appropriate male power by inverting the proper sexual order.[67] The adoption of the magic potion and the fire may have been more readily adopted in representing Circe because of their prevalence in witchcraft imagery, but without any sign of a cauldron it is difficult to argue strongly for any more than a reliance on the accounts found in Ovid and Virgil.

As there is no really clear evidence of a direct iconographical impact of the developing imagery of witchcraft on the visual representation of Circe in this period, so it is difficult to see any obvious impact of Circean imagery on general representations of witchcraft. One point of visual cross-fertilization would seem to be the greater prevalence given to the stick or wand as part of the witch's paraphernalia of evil. While the stick was used as an object on which witches rode in some of the earliest images of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, its use in the form of a wand became more common in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A key moment in this development was its adoption for that other ancient model of a female witch, the biblical Witch of Endor, in the first instance in Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen's remarkable painting of 1526.[68] Subsequently this witch was frequently endowed with some of the paraphernalia of the invocatory or ritual magic associated with the learned, male magician, including the wand. It does seem a reasonable claim, however, that depictions of the figure of Circe would have increased the cultural visibility and therefore the discursive currency of the practices of sorcery and magic in the ancient world. By virtue of that, visual representations of Circe must have helped consolidate belief in the use of such powers by some in the contemporary world, and not least the power of particular women who shared in some mysterious way in the world of animal nature and could constrain the wills of men who failed to control and reign in what were commonly understood to be their brutish, sensual natures. In this way the quite different images of Circe produced in the first century of print would have played a significant, though not wholly obvious and transparent, role in sixteenth-century discourses of witchcraft.


[*]For assistance with particular aspects of this research, I thank Nic Baker, Katharina Weiss, Jenny Spinks, Peter Sherlock, Sarah Ferber and especially Murray Creswell (†).
[1]The most important studies of witchcraft images which cover more than a small number of artists or restrict comment to individual objects in an exhibition catalogue are Sigrid Schade, Schadenzauber und die Magie des Körpers: Hexenbilder der frühen Neuzeit, Worms: Werner'sche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1983; Schade, Kunsthexen - Hexenkünste, in Richard van Dülmen, ed., Hexenwelten, Frankfurt a. M., 1987, 170-218; Machteld Löwenstein, Helse hebzucht en wereldse wellust. Een iconografische interpretatie van enkele heksenvorstellingen van Jacques de Gheyn II, Volkskundig Bulletin 12, no.1 (1986) 241-61; Wolfgang Schild, Die Maleficia der Hexenleut, Rothenburg o. d. Tauber: Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum, 1997; Schild, Hexen-Bilder, in Gunther Franz and Franz Irsigler, eds, Methoden und Konzepte der historischen Hexenforschung, Trier: Spee, 1998, 329-413; Jane Davidson, The Witch in Northern European Art, 1470-1750, Freren: Luca, 1987; Charles Zika, She-Man: Visual Representations of Witchcraft and Sexuality in Sixteenth-Century Europe, in Andrew Lynch and Philippa Maddern, eds, Venus and Mars: Engendering Love and War in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1995, 147-90; Zika, Cannibalism and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Reading the Visual Images, History Workshop Journal 44 (1997) 77-106 (published in German as Kannibalismus und Hexerei: die Rolle der Bilder im frühneuzeitlichen Europa, in Hedwig Röckelein, ed., Kannibalismus und Europäische Kultur, Tübingen: Edition Diskord, 1996, 75-114); Charles Zika, "Magie"- "Zauberei"- "Hexerei" Bildmedien und kultureller Wandel, in Bernhard Jussen and Craig Koslofsky, eds, Kulturelle Reformation: Sinnformationen im Umbruch, 1400-1600, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1999, 317-86; The most significant examples of the recent interest in Hans Baldung Grien are: M. Mende, Hans Baldung Grien: das graphische Werk. Vollständiger Bildkatalog der Einzelholzschnitte, Buchillustrationen und Kupferstiche, Unterschneidheim, 1978; Marianne Bernhard, Hans Baldung Grien: Handzeichnungen Druckgraphik, Munich, 1978; Gert von der Osten, Hans Baldung Grien: Gemälde und Dokumente, Berlin, 1983; James Marrow and Alan Shestack, eds, Hans Baldung Grien: prints and drawings, exh.cat., Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven 1981; Sigrid Schade, Schadenzauber, 54-61; Charmian A. Mesenzeva, "Der behexte Stallknecht" des Hans Baldung Grien, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 44, 1981, 57-61; Linda C. Hults, Baldung's "Bewitched Groom" revisited: artistic temperament, fantasy and the "Dream of Reason", Sixteenth Century Journal, 15, 1984, 259-79; Linda Hults, Baldung and the witches of Freiburg: the evidence of images, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 18, 1987, 251-55; Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-portraiture in German Renaissance Art, Chicago, 1993, 323-33; Margaret Sullivan, The Witches of Dürer and Hans Baldung Grien, Renaissance Quarterly, 53 (2000), 332-401.
[2]The recent article by Margaret Sullivan: The Witches of Dürer and Hans Baldung Grien, has effectively challenged such a view.
[3]See my two essays, "Les parties du corps, Saturne et le cannibalisme: représentations visuelles des assemblés des sorcières au XVIe siècle" in Nicole Jacques-Chaquin and Maxime Prèaud, eds, Le Sabbat des Sorciers en Europe ( XVe - XVIIIe siècles), Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 1993, 389-418 and "Fashioning New Worlds from Old Fathers: Reflections on Saturn, Amerindians and Witches in a Sixteenth-Century Print", in Donna Merwick, ed., Dangerous Liaisons: Essays in Honour of Greg Denning, Melbourne: The History Department, The University of Melbourne, 1994, 249-81.
[4]For general material on Circe in this period, see Roberts, Descendants; Yarnall, Transformations of Circe: The History of an Enchantress, Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994, ch. 4. For the seventeenth century, which is beyond the scope of this article, Bertina Suida Manning, The Transformation of Circe: the significance of the sorceress subject in seventeenth-century Genoese painting, in Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Federico Zeri, Los Angeles: the Paul Getty Trust, 1984, vol. 2, 689-708. And for a listing of some of the images, see Reid, Jane Davidson, ed., The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s, 2 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, 304-5.
[5]Chapter 36. For an English translation see Giovanni Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women, trans. & ed. Guido A. Guarino, London: Allen and Unwin, 1964, 77-8.
[6]For the gesture, see Zika, "Magie"- "Zauberei"- "Hexerei", 360-62.
[7]Boccaccio, De praeclaris mulieribus, Augsburg: Anton Sorg, 1479, fol. 51r, reproduced in Albert Schramm, Der Bilderschmuck der Frühdrucke, vol. 4: Die Drucke von Anton Sorg in Augsburg, Leipzig: K. W. Hiersemann, 1921, pl.61, fig. 431; Boccaccio, Liber de claris mulieribus, Louvain: Aedigius van der Heerstraten, 1487, fol. D2v. Also see William Martin Conway, The Woodcutters of the Netherlands in the Fifteenth Century, Hildesheim: Georg Olms and Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1961, 128-30.
[8]Boccaccio, Ein Schöne Cronica oder Hystoribüch von den Fürnämlichsten Weybern, Augsburg: Heinrich Steiner, 1541, fol. 31r; 1543, fol. 31r. For the attribution to Breu and dependency on Sorg, see F. W. H. Hollstein, German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts, c. 1400-1700, vol. IV, Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger, 182.
[9]Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women, 78.
[10]See n. 23 below.
[11]Liber Chronicarum, Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493, fol. 41r. The two editions had large runs of 1,000 and 1,500 and were widely marketed throughout Europe. See A. Wilson and J. Lancaster Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle, Amsterdam: Nico Israel, 1976; Elisabeth Rücker, Hartmann Schedels Weltchronik: Das größte Buchunternehmen der Dürer-Zeit. Mit einem Katalog der Städteansichten, Munich: Prestel, 1988; J. Chipps Smith, ed., Nuremberg: A Renaissance City, 1500-1618, exh. cat. Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery at the University of Texas, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983, 94-5.
[12]This includes Erwin Panofsky and Peter Strieder. See Peter Strieder et al., Dürer, Augsburg: Bechtermünz Verlag, 1996, 61; Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971, exh. cat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Munich: Prestel,1971, 72-3, fig. 117.
[13]L. Brand Philip, The Peddler by Hieronymus Bosch, a study in detection, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 9 (1958), 1-81 at 22-5.
[14]The relevant materials have been gathered in a lengthy illustrated essay by Kurt Volkmann, which was first published in the German magazine Magie from 1952 to 1954, and then as a monograph: Das Becherspiel des Zaubers in der bildenden Kunst. Das 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, Düsseldorf: Magischer Zirkel von Deutschland, 1954. This was later translated as The Oldest Deception: Cups and Balls in the Art of the 15th and 16th Centuries, trans. Barrows Mussey, Minneapolis, Minn.: Carl W. Jones, 1956. See also Philip, The Peddler, 22-5.
[15]J.P.Filedt Kok et al., The Master of The Amsterdam Cabinet or The Housebook Master, ca. 1470-1500, exh. cat., Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam, Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1985, esp. 218-25; Christoph Graf zu Waldburg Wolfegg, Venus und Mars. Das Mittelalterliche Hausbuch aus der Sammlung der Fürsten zu Waldburg Wolfegg, exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Munich, Munich: Prestel, 1997, 38-42, 117.
[16]Filedt Kok et al., The Master of The Amsterdam Cabinet, 38, 60; Strieder et al., Dürer, 87-9. Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971, 74, 81-7.
[17]Circe's assistant is also found in the pen drawing in the German Exemplar volume at fol. 56r. For the illustrations in the two Exemplar volumes, see Matthias Mende et al., Albrecht Dürer - ein Künstler in seiner Stadt, exh. cat. Stadtmuseum Fembohaus, Nuremberg, Nuremberg: W. Tümmels, 2000, 182-91; Wilson and Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle, chs 3, 4, 8.
[18]I refer to the De praestigiis daemonum and the De lamiis, both of which begin their titles as: Von Teuffelsgespenst Zauberern und Gifftbereytern... For the devil as trickster, and for the relationship between witchcraft and illusion, see my "Appropriating Folklore in Sixteenth-Century Witchcraft Literature: the Nebelkappe of Paulus Frisius" in Ronald Po-Chia Hsia and Robert W. Scribner, eds, Problems in the Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Europe, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1997, 175-218, at 185-6, 197-202.
[19]See Malleus Maleficarum, I, 10; II, 1, 8; Rudolf Endres, "Heinrich Institoris, sein Hexenhammer und der Nürnberger Rat", in Peter Segl, ed., Der Hexenhammer. Entstehung und Umfeld des Malleus maleficarum von 1487, Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1988, 209; Hartmut Kunstmann, Zauberwahn und Hexenprozeß in der Reichsstadt Nürnberg, Nuremberg: Korn & Berg, 1970, 142.
[20]Ulrich Molitoris, Schriften, ed. Jörg Mauz, Konstanz: Verlag am Hockgraben, 1997, 78-9, 148.
[21]Bk. 4, ch. 3. 87-8. The German edition of the Chronicle simply refers to Boethius rather than the particular work, as in the Latin edition. It is interesting to note that the discussion of metamorphosis in Ulrich Molitor's De Laniis cites the whole of the passage from Boethius' Consolation, while the German translation refers to Boethius' work without citing any of this passage (Molitoris, Schriften, 76-7, 146).
[22]The clearest visual attestation is in a broadsheet of 1487, which shows a woman labelled a phitonissa and identified by the text as a sorcerer giving a dragon a drink from her flask. See Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 178, fig. 18.
[23]As in a fifteenth-century Cambridge manuscript, and a late fourteenth-century Paris manuscript. For these and other manuscript illustrations of Circe in Boethius, see Richard A. Dwyer, Boethian Fictions: Narratives in the Medieval French Versions of the Consolatio Philosophiae, Cambridge, Mass.: The Medieval Academy of America, 1976, 28, fig. 2, 3; Pierre Courcelle, La consolation de philosophie dans la tradition littéraire. Antécédents et postérité de Boèce, Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1967, 194-96; fig. 108, 3; 109, 1-2; 110, 1-3; 111.
[24]For this and a copy of the Pencz drawing, see John Rowland, with assistance of Guilia Bartrum, Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-Speaking Regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. The Fifteenth Century and the Sixteenth Century by Artists Born Before 1530, 2 vols., London: British Museum, 1993, 207-8, cat. nos 440, 442.
[25]Poison is also presented to Ulysses' men in a chalice by Circe, flanked by three companions, in a fourteenth-century Paris manuscript. See Courcelle, La consolation, fig. 109, 2.
[26]Yarnall, Transformations of Circe: The History of an Enchantress, Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994, ch. 4.
[27]Vergil, Opera cum quinque vulgatis commentariis, Lyon: J. Crespin, 1529, p. 343.
[28]These later prints do not include the additional double-line border found on the left side of the 1502 version. See Dryzehen Aeneadische Bücher von Troianischer zerstörung ...durch doctor Murner vertütst, Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger, 1515, fol. 92r; Opera Virgiliana cum decem commentis, Lyon: J. Crespin, 1529, 343; Opera…in pristinam formam restituta, Venice: L. A. Giunta, 1533, fol. 159r; Opera Omnia, Venice: L. A. Giunta, 1552, fol. 361v.
[29]For discussion of the distaff in Dürer's engraving, Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat and in Cranach's painting, Melancholia (1532), see my "Dürer's Witch, Riding Women and Moral Order", in Charles Zika and Dagmar Eichberger, eds, Dürer and his Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, 118-140, at 123 and "The Wild Cavalcade in Lucas Cranach's Melancholia Paintings: Witchcraft and Sexual Disorder in 16th-Century Germany" in Mark Baker, ed., History on the Edge: Essays in Memory of John Foster 1944-1994, Melbourne: The History Department, The University of Melbourne, 44-88, here 69-70. The distaff also appears in witch scenes in a drawing by Altdorfer (1506), in a widely circulated woodcut of 1516 from Johann Geiler of Kaysersberg's Die Eneis (1516), in a drawing by the Monogrammist HF of 1515.
[30]The choice of Circe at the beginning of Book VII was not followed in a number of German translations of the Aeneid which adopted a similar schema of one woodcut per book (e.g. the editions of 1543 and 1559).
[31]Metamorphoses, Penguin, 311, 318.
[32]These two scenes were illustrated by a number of artists. For the illustrations by Virgil Solis, see below n. 34.
[33]Ovid, Metamorphoseos, Milan: Giovanni Angelo Scinzenzeler, 1517, fol.167r.
[34]Ovid, Metamorphoseos, Venice: Nicolaus Moretus, 1586, 273. Glaucus' sad tale is certainly located both before and after this woodcut, at the end of Book XIII and the beginning of Book XIV. For a depiction of Glaucus as a sea-god, see Virgil Solis's woodcut, Scylla turned into Mad Dogs and Stone, from the Frankfurt 1563 edition of the Metamorphoses (The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 19 (Part 1). German Masters of the Sixteenth Century. Virgil Solis: Intaglio Prints and Woodcuts, ed. Jane S. Peters, New York: Abaris, 1987, 512, fig. 7.163).
[35]La métamorphose d'Ovide figurée, Lyon: J. de Tournes, 1557, 163.
[36]The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 19 (Part 1). Virgil Solis, 513, fig. 7.165; 577, fig. 9.103. In Reusner's Emblemata, the image appears in association with the motto "Idleness is a wicked siren" (Improba Siren desidia), and not in relation to the vice of lust as in Alciato's emblem books which are discussed below.
[37]The earlier dating of c. 1525 has been revised in Peter Humfrey and Mauro Lucco, Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara, ed. Andrea Bayer, exh. cat. Pinacoteca nazionale, Ferrara, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, 89-92; Humfrey, Two moments in Dosso's career as a landscape painter, in Luisa Ciammitti, Steven Ostrow and Salvatore Settis, eds, Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy, Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1998, 201-18, at 204-7; Felton Gibbons, Dosso and Battista Dossi: Court Painters at Ferrara, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968, 215-16, cat. no. 80, fig. 34; John Walker, National Gallery of Art Washington, new and rev. ed., New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984, 192-3, cat. no. 222.
[38]Peter Humfrey considers Dosso's Circe to be modelled on Leonardo da Vinci's painting, Standing Leda, c.1506 (Humfrey and Lucco, Dosso Dossi, 90). Circe appears naked above the waist in the woodcut in Geoffrey Whitney's, A Choice of Emblemes, Leiden, 1586, discussed below; in frescoes of the Palazzo Poggi, Bologna by Pellegrino Tibaldi (c. 1554) and of the Palazzo Farnese, Rome, by Annibale Caracci (c. 1595) (Yarnall, Transformations of Circe, 118-20, figs. 20, 21); and in three paintings by Antonio Maria Vassalo from the 1650s (Manning, Transformation of Circe, 700, fig. 694-6).
[39]Jan Lauts, ed., Hans Baldung Grien: Ausstellung unter dem Protektorat des I.C.O.M., 4 Juli - 27 September 1959, exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 1959, 276; Giulia Bartrum, German Renaissance Prints 1490-1550, exh. cat., British Museum, London, London: British Museum Press, 1995, 69-71.
[40]Humfrey and Lucco, Dosso Dossi, 114-18; Gibbons, Dosso and Battista Dossi, 198-200, cat. no. 59, figs. 28, 29; also Manning, Transformation of Circe, 689.
[41]Manning, Transformation of Circe, 689 refers to the brazier as a "cup with the magic brew into which she dips her flaming wand". For the Cornelisz van Oostsanen painting, see the reproduction and further references in my "Les parties", 393-5, and my forthcoming article, "The Witch of Endor: transformations of a biblical necromancer in early modern Europe", in F.W. Kent and Charles Zika, eds, Rituals, Images and Words: the varieties of cultural expression in late medieval and early modern Europe, Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming 2002.
[42]Humfrey and Lucco, Dosso Dossi, 75-6.
[43]For this claim and the seventeenth-century tradition, see Manning, Transformation of Circe, 689.
[44]For the above, see A. E. Popham, Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino, 2 vols., New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1971, vol. 1, 66, no. 73; 69, no. 85; The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 48. Italian Chiaroscuro Woodcuts, ed. Caroline Karpinski, New York: Abaris Books, 1983, 176-180.
[45]Henri Zerner, The School of Fontainbleau: Etchings and Engravings, London: Thames & Hudson, 1969, A.F. no. 18, L.D. no. 20. Giulio Bonasone also probably designed a Majolica plate from Venice of c. 1570-1575, after the designs of Parmigianino. See Johanna Lessmann, Italienische Majolika. Katalog der Sammlung Herzog Anton-Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, Braunschweig, 1979, cat. no. 785.
[46]Metamorphoses, Penguin, 322.
[47]For Circe compared with the Whore of the Apocalypse in the Moralized Ovid, see Martha Kleinhans, "Circe ouvra de la science/ don't on blesce la conscience" - Antike Zauberinnen und Hexen in mittelalterlichen Texten, Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 117 (2001), 173-88, at 184. For John of Frankfurt, see Kieckhefer, Magic, 29.
[48]For the complicated history of emblem literature, see Andrea Alciato, Emblemata: Lyon, 1550, trans. Betty Knott, intro. John Manning, Aldershot: Scolar, 1996; Peter M. Daly with Virginia W. Callahan (eds), Andreas Alciatus: Index Emblematicus, 2 vols, Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1985; Arthur Henkel and Albrecht Schöne, Emblemata. Handbuch zur Sinnbildkunst des XVI. und XVII. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart: Metzler, 1967.
[49]At fol. 10v. This may well be the first appearance of the emblem and the illustration. It certainly did not appear in the original Steiner additions or in the first Wechel edition of 1534. But it is not absolutely clear from the literature whether it may have appeared in later Wechel Latin or vernacular editions. I have not yet seen the image and thank Peter Sherlock for a description of it from a volume in the Bodleian.
[50]Alciato, Emblemata: Lyon, 1550, xvi. As early as 1550, Rouillé published an edition which also includes the Circe image by du Vase used in the 1550 Bonhomme edition (fig. 15).
[51]See Henkel and Schöne, Emblemata, col. 1694-5.
[52]The translation is that by Betty Knott in Alciato, Emblemata: Lyon, 1550, 84.
[53]See Daly & Callahan, Andreas Alciatus, vol. 2, Emblem 76.
[54]For this vast theme, see my "She-Man", at 178-84. A similar point is made by Yarnall, Transformations of Circe, 101-7.
[55]In the Paris editions of 1583 and 1589 with Claude Mignault's commentary. Great variation is nevertheless found through the many editions of this period and I have only sampled a small number.
[56]The well-known image of Circe by Ulysses' boat in the 1621 Padua edition of Alciato's Emblemata, also shows Circe with her garment folded in similar fashion, and in it there seems to be a plant, and not, as far as I can see, her cup of drink (as described by Yarnall, Transformations of Circe, 106), which the text would lead one to expect. A poor reproduction is found in Daly & Callahan, Andreas Alciatus, I, Emblem 76.
[57]Whitney's emblem is reproduced in Yarnall, Transformations of Circe, 103, and in Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarrassed, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993, 129.
[58]Mathias Holtzwart, Emblematum Tyrocinia: Sive Picta Poesis Latinogermanica, Strasbourg: Bernhard Jobin, 1581, no. 26 (reproduced in Henkel & Schöne, Emblemata, col. 1696).
[59]Merritt Hughes, Spenser's Acrasia and the Circe of the Renaissance, Journal of the History of Ideas, 6 (1943), 381-399 at 387-8, 397.
[60]For the following see Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx, Le Ballet Comique, 1581. A Facsimile, intro. Margaret McGowan, Binghamton N.Y.: Centre for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1982; Margaret McGowan, L'Art du Ballet de Cour en France 1581-1643, Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, 1963, 42-47; Frances Yates, The French Academies of the Sixteenth Century, London: The Warburg Institute, 1947, 236-65; Frances Yates, Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century, London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975, 149-51, 165-7; Roy Strong, Art and Power. Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650, Berkeley/ Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984, 116-122; Henry Prunières, Le Ballet de Cour en France avant Benserade et Lully, Paris, 1914 (reprint New York & London: Johnson, 1970), 82-97.
[61]The text was by La Chesnaye, poet and almoner of the queen, the music by Lambert de Beaulieu, and the engravings by Patin, who was also responsible for the painting of the original scenery; it was later published in Recueil des plus excellens ballets de ce temps, Paris 1612. See Yates, French Academies, 238; Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx, Le Ballet Comique, 37-8.
[62]The scene depicted in the engraving is described in detail in the text. See Ballet comique, 4v-7v.
[63]Yates, French Academies, 244, n.3, suggests that the choice of these animals, all of whom appear in front of Circe at a point in the play (fol. 26v-27r, may have been influenced by the work of the Florentine Neoplatonist Giovanni Battista Gelli, Circe, which was first published in 1549 and later in numerous translated editions. Certainly the elephant, which I have not found in any other visual image of Circe, plays an important role in Gelli's text as the one beast who agrees to be transformed back into human shape.
[64]The engraving does not include two important details described in the text: the image of the sun (which was positioned above the trellis) and a large cloud with stars (which hung in the centre of the hall and through it the gods descended).
[65]Yates, French Academies, 219-21, 259-62. That the original author of the Ballet Comique may have been Agrippa d'Aubigné and that the ballet may have been planned to be performed in the earlier 1570s (Yates, 257-8), indicate the complex issues associated with this very important work which I cannot deal with in this article.
[66]For example, Kleinhans, "Circe ouvra de la science". And for manuscript illuminations of Circe, see the references in n. 23 above and also Millard Meiss, The Limbourgs and their Contemporaries. Text Volume, New York: George Brazillier and the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1974, 289 (two Paris mss of Boccaccio's Des cleres et nobles femmes, from which a Circe image is reproduced in Kieckhefer, Magic, 30, fig. 4) and 295 (a Paris ms. and a London ms. of Christine de Pisan's L'Epître d'Othéa). The only detailed study of the Circe in English, on the other hand, Judith Yarnall's Transformations of Circe, deals with the period from the sixth to the fifteenth centuries in little more than a page (98-9), and does not even mention Boccaccio.
[67]For this theme, see especially Zika, She-man and Zika, Dürer's Witch.
[68]For the painting and my development of the theme, see above n. 41.

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