After an 1865 Sculpture by William Wetmore Story.
In the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides, Medea was the sorceress who assisted Jason in obtaining the Golden Fleece and later became his wife. When he abandoned her, Medea murdered their two children and planned the death of his new love, Creusa. To nineteenth-century theater audiences, Medea was a sympathetic character forced to choose between relinquishing her children and protecting them by destroying them herself. Medea clenches her left hand in an attitude of smoldering tension, while tightly clutching the murder weapon, a dagger, in the other. Story deemphasized Medea’s active revenge, leaving to the viewer’s imagination the infanticide to come.