The J. Paul Getty Museum

Ulysses at the Palace of Circe

Object Details


Ulysses at the Palace of Circe


Wilhelm Schubert van Ehrenberg (Flemish, 1630 - about 1676)

animals by Carl Borromäus Andreas Ruthart (German, 1630 - 1703)






Oil on canvas

Object Number:



88.9 × 121.6 cm (35 × 47 7/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Brant

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Object Description

Behind a grove of trees, a building looms imposingly. The painting depicts a story taken from Homer's Odyssey, in which the sorceress Circe encounters the warrior Ulysses. Descending the palace stairs on the left, Circe greets Ulysses and offers him a magic potion. Previous to his arrival, the sorceress had given the same potion to Ulysses's men, who were then transformed into wild beasts. On the right, one man sports antlers while another one nearby is horrified to find his head changing into that of a wild boar. Unbeknownst to Circe, however, Ulysses has taken an herbal antidote given to him by Hermes. Ulysses will overcome the sorceress and force her to restore his men to their normal shape.

The tiny figures of Ulysses, Circe, and her entourage are secondary to the magnificently decorated palace, the lush landscape, and the assortment of lively animals. The painting is a collaborative effort of two painters: the Flemish artist Wilhelm Schubert van Ehrenberg, a specialist in depicting architecture, painted the palace and garden house, while the German artist Carl Borromäus Andreas Ruthart was responsible for the naturalistic display of animals in the foreground.

- 1803

Auguste-Louis-César-Hippolyte-Théodore de Lespinasse de Langeac, comte d'Arlet [sold, Lespinasse d'Arlet de Langeac sale, Paillet & Delaroche, Paris, July 15, 1803, lot 286, to Dufour.]
Source: Sale catalog annotation.

1803 -
- 1971

Thomas Brant (Los Angeles, California) and Louise Brant (Los Angeles, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

Baroque Masters from the J. Paul Getty Museum (February 26 to March 30, 1973)
  • California State University (Northridge), February 26 to March 30, 1973
Classical Myth in Western Art: Ancient Through Modern (November 1, 1985 to March 2, 1986)
  • Meadows Museum and Gallery, Southern Methodist University (Dallas), November 1 to December 22, 1985
  • Amarillo Art Center (Amarillo), January 12 to March 2, 1986

A. Paillet and H. Delaroche, Paris. Catalogue d'une riche collection d'articles curieux de tout genre. July 11-19, 1803, pp. 71-72, lot 286.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972), p. 74, no. 91, ill.

Baroque Masters from the J. Paul Getty Museum, exh. cat. (Northridge: California State University, 1973), pp. 9-10, no. 14.

Fredericksen, Burton B. "Recent Gifts of Paintings." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 3 (1976), pp. 114-15, 123, fig. 12.

Kilinski, Karl II. Classical Myth in Western Art: Ancient through Modern (Dallas: Meadows Museum and Gallery, Southern Methodist University, 1985), pp. 4, 72-73, no. 21, ill.

Reid, Jane Davidson. The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1900s. 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), vol. 2, p. 736.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 39, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., and Benjamin Peronnet, eds. Répertoire des tableaux vendus en France au XIXe siècle (Los Angeles: The Provenance Index of the Getty Information Institute, 1998), vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 571.

Hénin, Emmanuelle. Écrire la mythologie: D'Homère à Marguerite Yourcenar (Paris: Éditions Citadelles & Mazenod, 2016), p. 367, ill.