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An image of Circe by Bertram Mackennal

Bertram Mackennal

(Australia, England, France 12 Jun 1863 – 10 Oct 1931)

(circa 1902-circa 1904)
Media category
Materials used
bronze statuette

57.5 x 22.0 x 27.0 cm

Signature & date
Signed right of base, incised "B. MACKENNAL". Not dated.
Purchased 1970
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

This work is a statuette version of Bertram Mackennal's 'Circe', an important figure from Greek mythology and the favoured 'femme fatale' of nineteenth century Symbolist art. He has portrayed the enchantress at that compelling moment when, according to Homer's Odyssey, she transformed Ulysses' crew into swine.

The life-size version of Bertram Mackennal's controversial masterpiece was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1893, where it was awarded an Honourable Mention and gained much praise and recognition for the artist. The sculpture was exhibited by Mackennal the following year at the Royal Academy, London, where the Hanging Committee, offended by the overt sexuality of the reliefs, placed the work on display with the base covered. The subsequent controversy and the notoriety achieved by this work made the artist famous.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

Bibliography (20)

Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'DAPHNE: Intense, erotic and now in our collection', pg. 16, Newtown, Oct 2014, 16.

Sasha Grishin, Australian art: a history, "Australian expatriates of the Edwardian period in Great Britain", pg. 160-171, Carlton, 2013, 166, 167 (colour illus.), 548, 564. not AGNSW edition; plate no. 17.5

Untitled, 'Catalogue: Mystery, myth, pagent', pg. 328-351, 349 (colour illus.), 351, 410. 89

Joanna Mendelssohn, Art & Australia, 'Australian symbolism: the art of dreams', pg. 309, Paddington, Summer 2012, 309.

Michael Barden, Australian Journal of Philately, 'Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal, KCVO (1863-1931): Australian Sculptor, Medal and Stamp Designer', pg. 15-18, Melbourne, Sep 2008, 15 (colour illus., detail), 16 (colour illus.). NOTE: Sculpture reproduced was from the NGV collection.

Deborah Edwards, Look, 'Bertram Mackennal', pg. 24-26, Newtown, May 2007, 24 (colour illus., detail).

Deborah Edwards, Bertram Mackennal: the fifth Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project, ''Adaptability and versatility': Bertram Mackennal – an overview', pg. 15-82, Sydney, 2007, 11, 17, 30, 31 (colour illus.), 32, 33, 34, 96 (detail, colour illus.), 97, 112 (detail, colour illus.).

Deborah Edwards, Bertram Mackennal: Catalogue raisonné, Sydney, 2007. Artworks: Sculpture: 1890s

Leonard Joel (Compilator), Australian and European paintings (3 Nov 1993), South Yarra, 1993. lot 168

Editor Unknown (Editor), Christie's Australia - The Dallhold Collection (28 July 1992), South Yarra, Jul 1992, (colour illus.). lot 37

City Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, Reverie, myth, sensuality: sculpture in Britain 1880-1910 : an exhibition organised by Stoke on Trent City Museum and Art Gallery in association with Cartwright Hall, Bradford., Stoke-on-Trent, 1992, 49.

Author Unknown, Sotheby's - Melbourne: Fine Australian paintings (22 April 1991), Melbourne, 1991. lot 439B

Deborah Edwards, Stampede of the Lower Gods: Classical Mythology in Australian Art, 'The Expatriates', pg. 3-8, Sydney, Sep 1989, 5 (illus.), 44, 63.

Deborah Edwards., Australian sculpture 1890-1919, 'Australian sculpture 1890-1919', Sydney, 1987, (illus.). no catalogue numbers, not paginated

Noel Hutchinson, Early Australian sculpture, from its beginnings up to circa 1920, 'Sculpture in Australia 1788-c.1923: Introduction', Ballarat, 1977, (illus.). 20; NOTE: this cast is NOT from the collection of the AGNSW but from the NGV

Author Unknown, Spring Exhibition 1979 (Joseph Brown Gallery 1976), Melbourne, Oct 1976, (illus.). 33

Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy of Arts commemorative exhibition of works by late members: winter exhibition, fifty-second year 1933., London, 1933. 90; lent by Lady Mackennal

Macquarie Galleries, Exhibition of bronzes by Sir Bertram Mackennal K.C.V.O, Sydney, 1926. 10; priced £150.00

Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts Exhibition (1918), Glasgow, 1918. 60; priced £60.00

Author Unknown, Franco-British exhibition, London, 1908: fine arts catalogue, London, 1907.

Exhibition history (13)

Franco-British exhibition, London 1908, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 1908–1908

Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts Exhibition (1918), Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Glasgow, 1918–1918

Exhibition of bronzes by Sir Bertram Mackennal K.C.V.O, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 07 Oct 1926–20 Oct 1926

Memorial exhibition of statuettes by the Late Sir Bertram Mackennal, K.C.V.O, Fine Arts Society Gallery, Melbourne, May 1932–May 1932

Commemorative exhibition of works by late members, winter exhibition, 1933, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 07 Jan 1933–11 Mar 1933

British sculpture 1850-1914: a loan exhibition of sculpture and medals sponsored by the Victorian Society, Fine Art Society PLC, London, 30 Sep 1968–30 Oct 1968

Spring exhibition 1979, Joseph Brown Gallery, Australia, 17 Oct 1979–30 Oct 1979

Australian sculpture 1890-1919, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Jan 1987–22 Feb 1987

Stampede of the Lower Gods: Classical Mythology in Australian Art 1890's-1930's, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Oct 1989–26 Nov 1989

Reverie, myth, sensuality: sculpture in Britain 1880-1910 (1992), City Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, England, 26 Sep 1992–29 Nov 1992

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000

Exposed: The Victorian Nude:

Edwardian opulence: British art at the dawn of the twentieth century, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 28 Feb 2013–02 Jun 2013