Category Archives: Ulysses and the Sirens

The Waterhouse Exhibit, Montreal

Ulysses and the Sirens 1891
Apparently, in the Odyssey, there are only two Sirens. Waterhouse provides seven. Sirens are portrayed this way in Greek Vase Paintings, with women’s heads (All the better to sing, my dear) and bird’s bodies. I have always pictured them as mermaids of one sort or another, as Waterhouse does in a later painting. I love the Greek Ship and the Clashing Rocks though.

Cice Invidiosa 1892

The Hamadryad 1893
Speaking of Hamadryads (Greek tree nymphs), I came upon this poem by Edgar Allen Poe:
To Science
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
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The Waterhouse Exhibit, Montreal

The Siren 1900

Destiny 1900
Of all Waterhouse’s paintings, Destiny has my vote for sheer prettiness. It’s something about the beauty of her face, the red dress and background, which is both simple and complex. It’s one of Waterhouse’s tricks to provide views in both directions, a complete world, while only looking in one.

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus 1900
I’m doing paintings of Orpheus too, but I think I’ll avoid the floating head which continues to sing theme. (Orpheus was torn apart by Maenads, worshippers of Dionysus, who basically went up into the mountains, drank too much and really misbehaved.) His body was buried, but his head and lyre floated down the river Hebrus to the (Mediterranean) Sea.
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