Isobel Gloag – “The Kiss of the Enchantress“ c. 1890
This painting depicts a young soldier being trapped by a Lamia. Among the Greeks and Romans, a Lamia was a female demon who devoured children and whose name was used to frighten them. She was a Libyan queen beloved by Jupiter, but robbed of her offspring by the jealous Juno. She became insane and vowed vengeance on all children whom she delighted to entice and devour. The race of Lamiae in Africa were said to have the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a serpent. They enticed strangers into their embraces to devour them.
During the Middle Ages witches were also called Lamiae. The Keat’s poem Lamia (1820) recounts how a bride when recognized by Apollonius of Tyana as a serpent or lamia vanished in an instant. Keats took the substance of his poem from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) for which the source was Philostratus (De Vita Apollonii, Bk iv (3rd Century AD). The word Lamia derives from the Greek: Lamuros (voracious, gluttonous).
Isobel Lilian Gloag was born in London in 1865 to Scottish parents from Perthshire. She studied at St John’s Wood Art School and Slade, followed by producing studio work at M.W. Ridley’s studio.
- She attended life classes at South Kensington before travelling to Paris to study under Raphael Collin.
- Returning to London, she took a studio in Notting Hill, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1893 onwards; where her first exhibit was entitled A Raw Recruit.
- As well as painting romantic subject pictures reminiscent of Byam Shaw and Gerald Moira, she was a consummate portraitist, illustrator and stained glass window designer.
- She also designed posters and produced flower paintings.
- After a life plagued by ill health, Isobel Gloag died on the 5th of January 1917 aged 52.
An article in the Magazine of Art 1902 (pp. 289-292) by James Greig, comments upon her paintings and illustrations. Gloag is also listed in Christopher Wood’s Dictionary of Victorian Painters; whilst Simon Houfe’s Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators lists her known graphic works.