In 1891, John William Waterhouse painted the iconic piece entitled Ulysses and the Sirens, where he depicts a passage of Homer’s most famous book, Odyssey. This particular scene portrays the part in which Ulysses was strapped to the mast of the ship, as an attempt to pass the Strait of Messina. As the myth goes, the protagonist put wax in his ears to not fall into the enchanted music of the sirens – dangerous large bird creatures with heads of women.
The sirens were not the only obstacles for Ulysses and his crew. The Strait of Messina also had two terrible monsters – one on each side – Scylla and Charybdis. This required the sailors to maintain their ship in perfect position, so not to approach either side of the body of water. As a Pre-Raphaelite, Waterhouse mostly depicted scenes of Arthurian legends, as well as Greek mythology. Although the artist had a formal background at the Royal Academy of Art, he let go of the rigid traditional standards put upon oil painting, varying his color palette, composition schemes, and mostly his subjects.
In Ulysses and the Sirens, Waterhouse used a long horizontal canvas to represent a dramatic and turbulent scene. The massive ship creates an angle on the painting, leading the viewer’s eyes. Ulysses is to the right of the composition, strapped to the mast by his hands and feet and his figure is highlighted by being over the horizon line, like the sirens, and for wearing all white. Six large black sirens are flying over the crew and one perched on the side of the boat. The men rowing the boat are all wearing different colored fabrics wrapped around their head, not to be lured by the creatures singing.
The ship is beautifully detailed and resembling a creature, possibly to scare off monsters found along the way. The front of the boat creates an expressive curve with green scales and ornamented patterns. The side of the raft features a small lion head, a symbol of strength, for each row that comes out of its mouth. There is also a big and expressive eye painted on the back. The dark water is turbulent, and the end of the Strait is seen on the left side of the background with shining sunlight.
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Important Notes About Your Painting:
If you have any request to alter your reproduction of Ulysses and the Sirens 1891, you must email us after placing your order and we'll have an artist contact you. If you have another image of Ulysses and the Sirens 1891 that you would like the artist to work from, please include it as an attachment. Otherwise, we will reproduce the above image for you exactly as it is.
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