Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The mermaid in art

Mermaid in the detail of a map by N.C. Wyeth   

Mermaids—sirens of the sea—are so enchanting, and not just to fishermen and shipwrecked sailers! Folklore of sea creatures with upper bodies of humans and tails of fishes have been told, retold, and illustrated for centuries. I put together this collection of mermaids in art throughout the ages. The first primative images are in the desert in South Africa, where it was once an ocean. Serpents and mermaids often appeared in prints and engravings (particularly in ancient maps), political cartoons, children's books, and so on. There are a lot of mermaids here (45ish!) and believe it or not I used restraint in choosing which images to post. Enjoy!

The Mermaid
Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?

~ Lord Alfred Tennyson

Karoo desert rock art, believed to be mermaids, South Africa

Karoo desert rock art, South Africa

coat of arms print, 1554-1591, by Jost Amman 

medieval mermaid and merman print, artist unknown

Giovanni Andrea Maglioli  1580-1610

a 19th-Century engraving of a manatee and a mermaid

Colored copper plate engraving, Neptune, mermaids, seashells, 1810 

 The Prince of Whales political cartoon, by  George Cruikshank, 1812

by John William Waterhouse, 1900

by Maurice Greiffenhagen, circa 1900

by Howard Pyle, 1910

by Herbert Cole, 1915

by Warwick Goble

by Herbert Cole, 1915

Unidentified artist

Unidentified artist

"And I should look like a fountain of gold," 
illustration to The Mermaid, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
by Warwick Goble, circa 1920

Pinup mermaid

Unidentified artist

by Lisa Paizis

by Annie Stegg

by William Stout, 1999

by Victor Nizovtsev, Russian fantasy illustrator

Darryl Hannah in the film Splash

Julianne Moore as a mermaid in a Annie Leibowitz photo


A cone breasted Madonna-esque mermaid

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, 
 honors childeren's book writer Hans Christian Anderson. 
(We took this photo in 2005!)

And with a splash of her tail 
she disappeared into the blue beyond...

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