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.
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.
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 picture above is a particularly sadistic one - cop a load of the expression on that mermaid's face!
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.
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.
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.
For a change - a mermaid being menaced. By a giant squid. An early precursor to tentacle-porn?
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.
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.
And this is Clarke's idea of a suitable illustration for a Hans Christian Anderson collection. Awesome - but nightmarish.
Hm. What do you think is going to happen next, eh?
Okay, we are definitely back into Menacing territory.
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!