Friday, 14 January 2011

A Menace of Mermaids

A Mermaid: John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
[click to enlarge pictures]

Mermaids, of course, were the perfect excuse for the frustrated Victorian art-lover to stare at some luscious nudes - they could hardly be depicted in full-length bathing costumes, after all! So it's not surprising how popular a theme they were among the kinky artistic set. I'll start with couple of very famous mermaid pictures by Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse. You've probably seen these before.

The Siren

You might notice a recurring thread of female domination/male submission running through this post. Mermaids seem to take a lot of pleasure in drowning pretty men, as above.

The Merman

Here's a Waterhouse I bet most people haven't come across - and very unusually, a merman. I don't know if it ever got past the sketch stage. Pity. He seems a bit disconsolate - I imagine the girls are all off drowning sailors, leaving him to hump seals. Or maybe he's the only merman around and he's gay.

 The Depths of the Sea: Edward Burne-Jones  (1833-1898)

The picture above is a particularly sadistic one - cop a load of the expression on that mermaid's face!

The Mermaid and the Satyr : Ferdinand Leeke (1859-1923)

This mermaid is being horribly mean - satyrs can't resist the prospect of a bonk. I don't hold out much hope for that one.

The Fisherman and and the Siren : Lord Frederick Leighton (1830-1896)

Oops, there goes another pretty boy.

Artists seem to be confused between mermaids and sirens, btw. Technically sirens are half-bird, not half-fish. She's definitely a mermaid, that one.

Ulysses and the Sirens: Herbert James Draper(1863-1920)

I suppose the confusion is one of function: both mermaids and sirens sing and lure sailors onto rocks. But sirens are more irresistible - their song is magic. And let's face it, half-bird is not nearly as pretty as half-fish (I can't believe I just wrote that! I mean, why should that be?).  Anyway, in the Draper picture above, one of the "sirens" is definitely a mermaid and the others have legs.

 The Mermaid: William Arthur Breakspeare (1855-1914)

For a change - a mermaid being menaced. By a giant squid. An early precursor to tentacle-porn?

The Sea Maidens: Evelyn de Morgan (1850-1919)

Let's have a break from the menacing, for a moment. This is a mermaid picture by one of the few female painters working at the time. I'm wondering why they look so much like each other.

Mermaid Appears: Warwick Goble (1862-1943)

Okay, so a bit late to qualify as Victorian, but definitely kinkery. Goble was an illustrator of children's books ... and you can just imagine the effect this would have had.

 The Little Mermaid: Harry Clarke (1889-1931)

And this is Clarke's idea of a suitable illustration for a Hans Christian Anderson collection. Awesome - but nightmarish.

The Land Baby: John Collier (1850-1934)

Hm. What do you think is going to happen next, eh?

The Mermaid's Rock: Edward Matthew Hale (1852-1924)

Okay, we are definitely back into Menacing territory.

The Mermaid: Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

This guy seems to have fainted. Sudden rush of blood from the head, I suspect.

People haven't stopped painting mermaids, oh no - not by a long way! I'm finishing with one modern mermaid picture that I particularly like, though it's on the grim side. I'm afraid I have no idea where it came from. It's absolutely beautiful though.

And if you want more modern mermaids, you could start here - and go on for a long long time!


Jo said...

I wish I'd had that page for when I wrote this post, which you might appreciate.

Aidan Turner dream-merman, anyone?

Janine Ashbless said...

Yes! Me! Meeeee!!!

You lucky dreamer, Jo!

Jo said...

well, yeah, but except for the end :(

Danielle said...

ah..i always loved meerjungfrauen..truly..i have still two paintings i did as a child in art class...i think they are even on ym blog somewhere...

oh and of course you picked on of my fav mermaids ever: The Depths of the Sea

truly beautiful...

Janine Ashbless said...

There were a lot to choose from this time Danielle - glad I got your favourite!

Jo, I'm sure Aidan Turner has an enormous dick in real life. In fact, I'd be prepared to personally put my hypothesis to the test, in the interests of science ;-)

Sekrit Shoppa said...

Oh, swoon at Waterhouse - thanks for the feast.

And speaking of the beauteous Aidan - series 3 of Being Human! On soon! I am disproportionately excited.

Craig Sorensen said...

What a lovely assortment of mermaids! I especially like "The Mermaid's Rock" but also the more anatomically fish like modern one you closed with.

Good stuff.

Janine Ashbless said...

Being Human 3! Yay! More Mitchell! You and me both, Justine.

And I especially like the dramatic low perspective in "The Mermaid's Rock" Craig.

Erobintica said...

these are awesome!