Circe and Scylla

WAG 303


George Holt discovered Strudwick’s work in the collection of rival Liverpool shipowner William Imrie, at the Holmstead, North Mossley Hill Road. In 1890 he decided he wanted his own painting by the artist and purchased this. The subject is taken from Greek mythology, as retold by the Roman author Ovid. The artist's description of the subject was included in the Grosvenor Gallery catalogue, 1886, and was repeated in a letter to George Holt of 1890 replying to Holt's enquiry about a picture exhibited in the current year: 'Scylla was greatly loved by Glaucus, one of the deities of the sea. She scorned his addresses, and he, to render her more propitious, applied to Circe, whose knowledge of herbs and incantations was universally admitted. Circe no sooner saw him than she became emamoured of him, and instead of giving the required assistance, attempted to make him forget Scylla, but in vain. To revenge herself, Circe poisoned the stream where Scylla bathed; and no sooner had the nymph touched the water than she was changed into a frightful monster. This sudden metamorphosis so terified her, that she threw herself into that part of the sea which separates the coast of Italy from Sicily, where she was changed into rocks which continue to bear her name. The picture represents Circe squeezing the fatal juice into the stream and Scylla descending the rocks to bathe'. Following his acquisition of this work, in what was his most individualistic act of art patronage, Holt went on to commission three more paintings directly from Strudwick.