The sirens were a group of dangerous women in Greek Mythology, using their song to enchant and lure sailors to their deaths by drowning them. When we vacationed on the Sorrentine peninsula back in 2006, we were told that the rocks between the bay where we were staying and the island of Capri were the home of the sirens. Thankfully we didn’t run into them. There is a strong history of drowning in my family history – it’s the leading cause of death after war and tuberculosis – so I wouldn’t fancy my chances up against a siren. I am pretty sure lots of Mediterranean islands lay claim to being the home of the sirens in the hope of enchanting and luring tourists. Not to their deaths.
The sirens feature in some of the major myths. In the story of Jason and the Argonauts, for instance, Orpheus whips out his lyre and starts playing it in order to drown out their song. Orpheus’ music was more beautiful than their song so the sirens were defeated. Take that! In The Odyssey, Odysseus decided he wanted to hear the siren’s song so he had his men bind him to the mast of his ship – so that he was prevented from diving into the water when the sirens tempted him – while his crew plugged their ears with beeswax.
In classical writing and art, sirens were part-human-part-bird – rather like the harpies –perhaps because of the connection to bird song. Despite their hybridization, they were considered to be beautiful, sensuous and seductive. Think “sexy sparrow”. No? Me neither. I, however, decided to not take my drawing down that classical route. The original sirens have become conflated with mermaids so I decided to draw a mermaid. This was for two reasons: firstly, it avoided me all but repeating my harpy drawing; secondly, I have been meaning to draw or print a mermaid for quite some time now so I thought this drawing would be a good starting point for working on another mermaid some time. I drew her with lots of curves to reinforce the idea of her sensuality but I added the skull and bone at the base of her rock as an allusion to her deadliness. As a creature of the sea, I used a blue and sea-green colour scheme. I enjoyed drawing her so I do hope I find time to create more mermaids some time soon.