Glindoni painted skulls around Dee’s feet….

[Glindoni painted skulls around Dee’s feet. Dee would have objected, and presumably the patron who commissioned this work did also, because the skulls are over painted in the final version (here). Considering Dee’s lifelong efforts to overcome the ignorance and fear of his contemporaries who equated skill and learning with sorcery, the inclusion of the skulls and the implication of necromancy is offensive. Glindoni may have simply been adding a theatrical touch, not realising the sensitivity of the matter. In Dee’s time, witchcraft could lead to execution, and Dee had already been accused, detained and examined for it. He had also prosecuted others for slander.]

X-ray of Henry Gillard Glindoni, “John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I” (late 19th century), showing skulls in a ring around John Dee (courtesy Royal College of Physicians) (click to enlarge)

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