The Empusae, we’re told, were daughters of Hecate in Greek mythology, sent to harass the unwary traveller on lonely roads, as if travellers on lonely roads didn’t have enough to worry about from human malefactors. The sinister femme fatale of mythology was a popular subject among fin de siècle artists which perhaps explains why Carl Schmidt-Helmbrechts (1871–1936) went to such trouble with this etching of one of the baleful demonesses.

There’s very little information about Schmidt-Helmbrechts on the web and little of his other work to be seen; this picture was scanned from High Art and Low Life: ‘The Studio’ and the fin de siècle (1993) and even there they don’t give a date for it although I’d guess it was a product of the 1890s. The description does say it was printed in olive, however, so I’ve taken the liberty of tinting their black and white version accordingly. I’ve no idea what the musical notes at the bottom left are for but I like the lettering design, there’s almost enough of it to develop into a font.

Update: I’ve since discovered that the print was made in 1894.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Philippe Wolfers, 1858–1929
The Masks of Medusa

3 thoughts on “Empusa”

  1. You have a wonderful blog here. I would like to see this image, but the link seems to be broken. Would it be possible to reload it?

    If you want to find more about empousai, read Dio Chrysostom, Oration 5.

  2. Hi Helena. My webhost’s server crashed a couple of months ago which meant I had to reinstall all the files. Everything is there but a couple of links still remain broken; thanks for spotting this one.

    If you click on the picture above you’ll also get a slightly larger version.

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